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Life of 

Thomas a Becket. 

Dean of St, Paul's. 





Peehaps tlie chapter of English history 
fullest of romantic interest, is that contain- 
ing the life of Thomas a Becket. In fact, 
the great struggle between Becket and 
Henry II., — between individual genius and 
sovereign power, between a subject and 
his kiQg, between religion and the sword, 
between the Chui'ch and the State, is 
scarcely equaled in the annals of the 
world. And nowhere do we find a paral- 
lel to the strange story of Becket's life, 
beginning in Oriental legend, ending in 
heroic tragedy.' By an accident of posi- 
tion, he questioned with the terrible power 
of genius the divine right of kings, and 
the grateful people of England, a hundred 
thousand at a time, flocked as pilgrims to 
his tomb. 

iv Editor^ s Preface. 

The biography here presented has been 
taken from Dean Milman's great history 
of Latin Christianity. The style is at 
once dignified, terse, and eloquent. The 
learning of Milman is abundant and accu- 
rate, his judgment singularly sound and 
free from prejudice. One of the gems of 
his history is this life of Becket. A bio- 
graphy of the biographer is part of our 
plan, and we gladly transfer to our pages, 
from the English Cyclopedia, a sketch of 
Milman's life. 

The Rev. Heney Hart Milman, D. D., 
Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, was born 
February 10th, 1791, in London. He is 
the youngest son of Sir Francis Milman, 
first baronet, who was physician to George 
IH., and is brother to Siu William George 
Milman. He was educated at Dr. Bur- 
ney's academy at Greenwich, at Eton 
College, and at Brazenose College, Oxford, 
where he took his degrees of B. A. and 
M. A., and of which he was elected a Fel- 

Editor^ s Preface. 

low. In 1812 he received the Newdegate 
prize for his English poem on the Apollo 
Belvidere. In 1815 he published "Fazio, 
a Tragedy," which was performed with 
success at Covent Garden Theatre, at a 
period when .theatrical managers seized 
upon a published play, and produced it 
without an author's consent. Mr. Milman 
could not even enforce the proper pronun- 
ciation of the name of " Fazio." He took 
holy orders in 1817, and was appointed 
vicar of St. Mary's, Reading. In the early 
part of 1818 he pubhshed "Samor, Lord 
of the Bright City, an Heroic Poem," of 
which a second edition was called for in 
the course of the same year. The hero 
of this poem is a personage of the legen- 
dary history of Britain in the early part 
of the Saxon invasions of England. The 
fullest account of his exploits is given in 
Dugdale's " Baronage," under his title of 
Earl of Gloucester. Harrison, in the "De- 
scription of Britain," prefixed to Holins- 

hed's " Chronicle," calls him Eldulph de 

vi Editor'^ s Preface. 

Samor. The Bright City is Gloncester, 
(Caer Gloew in British.) In 1820 Mr 
Milman published "The Fall of Jerusalem," 
a dramatic poem founded on Josephus's 
narrative of the siege of the sacred city. 
This, in some respects his most beautiful 
poem, established his reputation. In 1821, 
he was elected Professor of Poetry in the 
University of Oxford, and published three 
other dramatic poems, " The Martyr of 
Antioch," " Balshazzar," and " Anne Bo- 
leyn." In 1827 he published sermons at 
the " Bampton Lecture," 8vo., and in 
1829, without his name, "The History 
of the Jews," 3 vols. 18mo. A collected 
edition of his " Poetical Works," was pub- 
lished in 1840, which, besides the works 
above mentioned, and his smaller poems, 
contains the "Nala and Damayanti," 
translated from the Sanskrit. In the 
same year he published his " History of 
Christianity from the Birth of Christ, to 
the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman 
Empire," 3 vols. 8vo., in which he pro- 

Editor^ s Preface. vii 

fesses to view Christianity as a historian, 
in its moral, social, and political influences, 
referring to its doctrines no further than 
is necessary for explaining the general 
effect of the system. It is the work of an 
accomplished and liberal-minded scholar. 
At the commencement of 1849 appeared 
" The Works of Quintus Horatius Flac- 
cus, illustrated chiefly from the Remains 
of Ancient Art, with a Life by the Rev. 
H. H. Milman," 8vo., a beautiful and luxu- 
rious edition. Mr. Milman's Life of Ho- 
race, and critical remarks on the merits 
of the Roman poet, are written with much 
elegance of style, and are very interesting. 
Li November 1 849, Mr. Milman, who had 
for some years been Rector of St. Margar- 
et's, Westminster, and a Canon of West- 
minster, was made Dean of St. Paul's. 
Dean Milman's latest publication is a "His- 
tory of Latin Christianity, including that 
of the Popes to the Pontificate of Nicholas 
v.," 3 vols. 8vo. 1854. This work is a 
continuation of the author's " History of 

viii Editor^ s Preface, 

Cliristianity," and yet is in itself a complete 
work. To give it that completeness lie has 
gone over the history of Christianity in 
Rome dm'ing the first four centuries. The 
author states that he is occupied with the 
continuation of the history down to the 
close of the pontificate of Nicholas Y., 
that is, to 1 455.1 Besides the works before 
mentioned, Dean MUman is understood to 
have contributed numerous articles to the 
"Quarterly Review^" and his edition of 
Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire," presented the great historian 
with more ample illustrations than he had 
before received. This edition has been re- 
published, with additional notes and veri- 
fications, by Dr. W. Smith. 

Dean Milman is destined to become a 
household word in historical literature, 
and we are glad to present the many with 
this favorable specimen of his work. 

May, 1859. Q. W. WiGHT. 

1 The " History of Latin Christianity," is now com- 
pleted in six volumes. — Ed. 


PopiJLAE poetry, after the sanctifica- 
tion of Becket, delighted in throwing 
the rich colors of marvel over his birth 
Legend, and parentage. It invented, or 
rather interwove with the pedigree of 
the martyr, one of those romantic tra- 
ditions which grew out of the wild ad- 
ventures of the crusades, and which oc- 
cur in various forms in the ballads of 
all nations. That so great a saint should 
be the son of a gallant champion of the 
cross, and of a Saracen princess, was a 
fiction too attractive not to win general 
acceptance. The father of Becket, so 
runs the legend, a gallant soldier, was 
a captive in the Holy Land, and in- 

10 Thomas a Bechet. 

spired tlie daugliter of his master witli 
an ardent attacliment. Through, her 
means he made his escape ; but the en- 
amored princess conld not endnre life 
without him. She too fled and made 
her way to Europe. She had learned 
but two words of the Christian lan- 
guage, London and Gilbert. With 
these two magic sounds upon her lips 
she reached London ; and as she wan- 
dered through the streets, constantly 
repeating the name of Gilbert, she was 
met by Becket's faithful servant. Beck- 
et, as a good Christian, seems to have 
entertained religious scruples as to the 
propriety of wedding the faithful, but, 
misbelieving, or, it might be, not sin- 
cerely believing maiden. The case was 
submitted to the highest authority, and 
argued before the Bishop of London. 
The issue was the baptism of the prin- 
cess, by the name of Matilda (that of 
the empress queen,) and their marriage 

Thomas a B echet . 11 

in St. Paul's, with the utmost publicity 
and splendor. 

But of this wondrous tale, not one 
word had reached the ears of any of the 
seven or eight contemporary biogra- 
phers of Becket, most of them his most 
intimate friends or his most faithful at- 
tendants.^ It was neither known to 

1 There are no less than seven full contempo- 
rary, or nearly contemporary, Lives of Becket, 
besides fragments, legends, and "Passions." 
Dr. Giles has reprinted, and in some respects 
enlarged, those works from the authority of MSS. 
I give them in the order of his volnmes. I. 
Vita Sancti Thom^. Anctore Edward Grim. 
II. Anctore Koger de Pontiniaco. III. Auctore 
Willelmo Filio Stephani. IV. Auctoribus Jo- 
anne Decano Salisburiensi, et Alano Abbate 
Tenksburiensi. Y. Anctore TVillelmo Canter- 
buriensi. VI. Anctore Anonymo Lambethi- 
ensi. VII. Auctore Herberto de Bosham. Of 
these, Grim, Pitz-Stephen, and Herbert de Bos- 
ham were throughout his life in more or less 
close attendance on Becket. The learned John 
of Salisbury was his bosom friend and counsel- 

12 Thomas d Beclcet. 

JoliB of Salisbury, liis confidential ad- 
viser and correspondent, nor to Fitz- 
Steplien, an officer of his court in chan- 
cery, and dean of his chapel when arch- 
bishop, who was with him at E'orth- 
ampton, and at his death ; nor to Her- 
bert de Bosham, likewise one of his offi- 
cers when chancellor, and his faithful 
attendant throughont his exile ; nor to 

lor. Eoger of Pontignj was Ms intimate asso- 
ciate and friend in tliat monastery. William 
was probably prior of Canterbury at tbe time 
of Becket's death. The sixth professes also to 
have been witness to the death of Becket. (He 
is called Lambethiensis by Dr. Giles, merely 
because the MS. is in the Lambeth Library.) 
Add to these the curious Trench poem, written 
five years after the murder of Becket, by Garnier 
of Pont S. Maxence, partly published in the 
Berlin Transactions, by the learned Immanuel 
Bekker, All these, it must be remembered, 
write of the man ; the later monkish writers 
(though near the time, Iloveden, Gervase, Di- 
ceto, Brompton) of the Saint. 

Thomas a B eclcet. 13 

the monk of Pontign j, who waited upon 
him and enjoyed his most intimate con- 
fidence during his retreat in that con- 
vent ; nor to Edward Grim, his standard- 
bearer, who on his way from Clarendon, 
reproached him with his weakness, and 
having been constantly attached to his 
person, finally interposed his arm be- 
tween his rr aster and the first blow of 
the assassin. Is'or were these ardent 
admirers of Becket silent from any se- 
vere-aversion to the marvelous; they 
relate, with unsuspecting faith, dreams 
and prognostics which revealed to the 
mother the future greatness of her son, 
even his elevation to the see of Canter- 

2 Brompton is not the earliest writer who re- 
corded this tale ; he took it from the Quadrilo- 
gus I., but of this the date is quite uncertain. 
The exact date of Brompton is unknown. See 
preface in Twysden. He goes down to the end 
of Richard II. 

14: Thomas a Bechet. 

To the Saxon descent of Becket, a 
theory in which, on the authority of an 
eloquent French writer,^ modern his- 
tory has seemed disposed to acquiesce, 
these biographers not merely give no 
support, but furnish direct contradic- 
tion. The lower people no doubt ad- 
mired during his life, and worshiped 
after death, the blessed Thomas of Can- 
terbury, and the people were mostly 
Saxon. But it was not as a Saxon, but 
as a Saint, that Becket was the object 
of unbounded popularity during his 
life, of idolatry after his death. 

The father of Becket, according to 
Parentage the distiuct words of oue con- 

and edu- . ^ 

cation, temporary biographer, was a 
native of Kouen, his mother of Caen.^ 

3 Mons. Thierry, Hist, des ^STormands. Lord 
Lyttelton (Life of Henry II.) had before asserted 
the Saxon descent of Becket : perhaps he misled 
M. Thierry. 

* The anonymous Lambethiensis, after stating 

Thomas a Bechet. 15 

Gilbert was no knight-errant, bnt a 
sober merchant, tempted by commercial 
advantages to settle in London: his 
mother neither boasted of royal Sara- 
cenic blood, nor bore *the royal name 
of Matilda : she was the daughter of an 
honest burs^her of Caen. His l^orman 
descent is still further confirmed by his 
claim of relationship, or connexion at 
least, as of common Norman descent, 
with Archbishop Tlieobald.^ The pa- 
rents of Becket, he asserts himself, were 
merchants of unimpeached character, 
not of the lowest class. Gilbert Becket 
is said to have served the honorable 

that many Norman merchants were allured to 
London by the greater mercantile prosperity, 
proceeds: "Ex horum numero fuit Gilbertus 
qnidam cognomento Becket, patria Eotomagen- 
sis . . . . liabuit aiitem uxorem, nomine Roseam 
natione Cadomensem, genere burgensium quo- 
que non disparem." — Apiid Giles, ii. p. 73, 
5 See below. 

16 T homas a B echet , 

Born A. B. office of sheriff, but Ms fortune 
■^^^^' was injured by fires and other 
casualties.^ The young Becket received 
his earliest education among the monks 
of Merton in Surrey, towards whom he 
cherished a fond attachment, and de- 
lighted to visit them in the days of his 
splendor. The dwelling of a respect- 
able London merchant seems to have 
been a place where strangers of very 
different pursuits, who resorted to the 
metropolis of England, took up their 
lodging : and to Gilbert Becket's house 
came persons both disposed and quali- 
fied to cultivate in various ways the 
extraordinary talents displayed by the 
youth, who was singularly handsome, 
and of engaging manners.^ A knight, 

6 " Quod si ad generis mei radicem et proge- 
nitores meos intenderis, cives qnidem fuerunt 
Londonienses, in medio concivium suorum ha- 
bitantes sine querela, nee omnino infimi." — 
Epist. 130. '^ Grim, p. 9. Pontiniac, p. 96. 

Thomas a B eclcet . IT 

whose name, Richard cle Aquila, occurs 
with distinction in the annals of the 
time, one of his father's guests, delight- 
ed in initiating the gay and spirited 
boy in chivalrous exercises, and in the 
chase with hawk and hound. On a 
hawking adventure the young Becket 
narrowly escaped being drowned in the 
Thames. At the same time, or soon 
after, he was inured to business by act- 
ing as clerk to a wealthy relative, Os- 
born Octuomini, and in the office of the 
Sheriff of London.^ His accomplish- 
ments were completed by a short resi- 
dence in Paris, the best school for the 
language spoken by the l!^orman no- 
bility. To his father's house came like- 
wise two learned civilians from Bologna, 
no doubt on some mission to the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. They were so 
captivated by young Becket, that they 
strongly recommended him to Arch- 
8 Grim, p. 8. 

18 Thomas a Bechet. 

bishojD Theobald, whom the father of 
Becket reminded of their common hon- 
orable descent from a knightly family 
near the town of Thiersy.^ Becket was 
at once on the high road of advance- 
jn the ment. His extraordinary abil- 
o??h?Arch- ities were cultivated by the 
bishop. ^^^gg patronage, and employed 
in the service of the primate. Once he 
accompanied that prelate to Rome;^^ 
and on more than. one other occasion 
visited that great centre of Christian 
aifairs. He was permitted to reside for 
a certain time at each of the great 
schools for the study of the canon law, 
Bologna and Auxerre.^^ He was not, 

9 " Eo familiarius, quod pr^fatus Gilbertus 
cum domino arcMprsesule de propinquitate et 
genere loquebatur : ut ille ortu Normannus et 
circa Thierici villam de equestri ordine natu 
vicinus." — ^Fitz-Stephen, p. 184. Thiersj or 

10 Eoger de Pontigny, p. 100. 

11 Fitz-Stephen, p. 185. 

Thomas a B echet. 19 

however, without enemies. Even in 
the conrt of Theobald began the jealous 
rivalry with Eoger, afterwards Arch- 
bishop of York, then Archdeacon of 
Canterbiirj.^2 Twice the superior influ- 
ence of the archdeacon obtained his dis- 
missal from the service of Theobald; 
twice he was reinstated by the good 
offices of Walter, Bishop of Eochester. 
At length the elevation of Eoger to the 
see of York left the field open to Beck- 
et. He was appointed to the vacant 
archdeaconry, the richest benefice, after 
the bishoprics, in England. From that 
time he ruled without rival in the favor 
of the aged Theobald. Preferments 
were heaped upon him by the lavish 
bounty of his patron.^^ During his exile 

12 According to Fitz-Stephen, Thomas was 
less learned (minus literatus) than his rival, but 
of loftier character and morals. — P. 184. 

13 " PlurimsB ecclesies, prsebend^ nonnuU^." 
Among the livings were one in Kent, and St. 

20 Thoinas a Bechet. 

he was reproached with his ingratitude 
to the king, who had raised him from 
poverty. "Poverty!" he rejoined; 
" even then I held the archdeaconry of 
Canterbury, the provostship of Bever- 
ley, a great many churches, and several 
prebends. "^^ The trial and the triumph 
of Becket's precocious abilities was a 
negotiatioiiL of the utmost difficulty 
with the court of Eome. The first ob- 
ject was to obtain the legatine power 
for Archbishop Theobald; the second 
tended, more than almost all measures, 
to secure the throne of England to the 
house of Plantagenet. Archbishop 
Theobald, with his clergy, had inclined 
to the cause of Matilda and her son ; 
they had refused to officiate at the coro- 
nation of Eustace, son of King Stephen. 

Mary le Strand ; among the prebends, two at 
London and Lincoln. The archdeaconry of Can- 
terbury was worth 100 pounds of silver a-year. 
14 Epist. 130. 

Thomas a B echet. 21 

Becket not merely obtained from En- 
genius III. the full papal approbation 
of this refusal, but a condemnation of 
Stephen (whose title had before been 
sanctioned by Eugenius himself,) as a 
perjured usurper.^^ 

But on the accession of Henry EC., the 
aged Archbishop began to tremble at 
his own work ; serious apprehensions 

arose as to the disposition of Accession of 

the young king towards the Dec. 19, 1154. 
Church. His connexion was but re- 
mote with the imperial family (though 
his mother had worn the imperial 
crown, and some imperial blood might 
flow in his veins) ; but the Empire was 
still the implacable adversary of the 
papal power. Even from his father he 
might have received an hereditary 
taint of hatred to the Church, for the 
Count of Anjou had on many occasions 

15 Lord Lyttelton gives a full account of this 
transaction. — Book i. p. 213. 

22 Tho'irhas a BecTcet. 

shown tlie "utmost hostility to the Hier- 
archy, and had not scrupled to treat 
churchmen of the highest rank with un- 
exampled cruelty. In proportion as it 
was important to retain a young sover- 
eign of such vast dominions in alle- 
giance to the Church, so was it alarm- 
ing to look forward to his disobedience. 
The Archbishop was anxious to place 
near his person some one who might 
counteract this suspected perversity, 
and to prevent his young mind from 
being alienated from the clergy by 
fierce and lawless counselors. He had 
discerned not merely unrivaled abilities, 
but with prophetic sagacity, his Arch- 
deacon's lofty and devoted churchman- 
ship. Through the recommendation of 
the primate, Becket was raised to the 
dignity of chancellor, ^^ an office which 

16 This remarkable fact in Becket's history 
rests on the authority of his friend, John of 
Salisbury: "Erat enim in suspectu adolescentia 

Thomas a Bechet. 23 

made him tlie second civil power in tlie 
realm, inasmuch as his seal was neces- 
sary to countersign all royal mandates. 
ITor was it without great ecclesiastical 
influence, as in the chancellor was the 
aj)pointment of all the royal chaplains, 
and the custody of vacant bishoprics, 
abbacies, and benefices.^'^ 

regis et juvenumetpravorumhominum, quorum 
conciliis agi videbatur . . . insipientiam 
et malitiam formidabat . . . cancellarium 
procurabat in curia ordinari, cujus ope et opera 
novi regis ne saeviret in ecclesiam, impetum 
cohiberet et consilii sui temperaret malitiam." 
— Apud Giles, p. 321. This is repeated in 
almost the same words by "William of Canter- 
bury, vol. ii. p. 2. Compare what may be read 
almost as the dying admonitions of Theobald to 
the king: "Suggerunt vobis filii sseculi hujus, 
ut ecclesise minuatis auctoritatem, ut vobis regni 
dignitas augeatur." He had before said, " Cui 
deest gratia Ecclesiae, tota creatrix Trinitas ad- 
versatur." — Apud Boq.uet, xvi. p. 504. Also 
Koger de Pontigny, p. 101. 

1^ Fitz-Stephen, p. 186. Compare on the 

24 Thomas a Bechet. 

But tlie Chancellor, wlio was yet, 
Becket ^'^^^ all liis great preferments. 
Chancellor, qj^j {-^ deacon's orders, might 
seem disdainfully to throw aside the 
habits, feelings, restraints of the church- 
man, and to aspire as to the plenitude 
of secular power, so to unprecedented 
secular magnificence.^^ Becket shone 
out in all the graces of an accomplish- 
ed courtier, in the bearing and valor of 
a gallant knight ; though at the same 
time he displayed the most consummate 
abilities for business, the promptitude, 
diligence, and prudence of a practiced 
statesman. The beauty of his person, 
the affability of his manners, the extra- 
ordinary acuteness of his senses,^^ his ac- 

office of cliancellor Lord Campbell's Life of 

18 De Bosham, p. 17. 

19 See a curious passage on the singular sen- 
sitiveness of his hearing, and even of his smell. 
— Eoger de Pontigny, p. 96. 

Thomas a Bechet. 25 

tivity in all cHvalrons exercises, made 
liim the chosen companion of the king 
in his constant diversions, in the chase 
and in the mimic war, in all bnt his 
debaucheries. The king wonld willing- 
ly have lured the Chancellor into this 
companionship likewise ; but the silence 
of his bitterest enemies, in confirmation 
of his own solemn protestations, may be 
admitted as conclusive testimonies to 
his unimpeached morals.^^ The power 
of Becket throughout the king's domin- 
ions equaled that of the king himself 
— ^he was king in all but name: the 
world, it was said, had never seen two 

20 Eoger de Pontigny, p, 104. His character 
bj John of Salisbury is remarkable: "Erat 
supra modum captator aurse popularis . . . 
etsi superbus esset et vanus et interdum faciem 
prsetendebat iiAipienter amantium et verba pro- 
ferret, admirandus tamen et imitandus erat in 
corporis castitate." — P. 320. See an adventure 
related by William of Canterbury, p. 3. 

26 Thomas a Bechet. 

friends so entirely of one mind.^^ The 
well-known anecdote best illustrates 
their intimate familiarity. As they 
rode through the streets of London on 
a bleak Winter day they met a beggar 
in rags. "Would it not be charity," 
said the king, "to give that fellow a 
cloak, and cover him from the cold ? " 
Becket assented ; on which the king 
plucked the rich furred mantle from the 
shoulders of the struggling Chancellor 
and threw it, to the amazement and ad- 
miration of the bystanders, no doubt to 
the secret envy of the courtiers at this 
proof of Becket's favor, to the shivering 

But it was in the graver affairs of 
the realm that Henry derived still 

21 Grim, p. 13. Eoger de Pontigny, p. 102. 
Fitz-Stephen, p. 192. * 

22 Fitz-Stephen, p. 191. Fitz-Stephen is most 
fall and particular on the chancellorship of 

Thomas a B eehet . 27 

greater advantage from tlie wisdom and 
the conduct of the Chancellor.^^ To 
Becket's counsels his admiring biogra- 
phers attribute the pacification of the 
kingdom, the expulsion of the foreign 
mercenaries who during the civil wars 
of Stephen's reign had devastated the 
land and had settled down as conquer- 
ors, especially in Kent, the humiliation 
of the refractory barons and the demo- 
lition of their castles. The peace was 
so profound that merchants could travel 
everywhere in safety, and even the 
Jews collect their debts.^"* The magnifi- 
cence of Becket redounded to the glory 
of his sovereign. In his ordinary life 
he was sumptuous beyond precedent ; 
he kept an open table, where those who 

2-3 It is not quite clear how soon after the ac- 
cession of Henry the appointment of the chan- 
cellor took place. I should incline to the earlier 
date, A. D. 1155. 

24 Fitz-Stephen, p. 187. 

28 Thomas a Bechet. 

were not so fortunate as to secnre a 
seat at the board had clean rushes 
strewn on the floor, on which they 
might repose, eat, and carouse at the 
Chancellor's expense. His household 
was on a scale vast even for that age 
of unbounded retainership, and the 
haughtiest l^orman nobles were proud 
to see their sons brought up in the 
family of the merchant's son. In his 
embassy to Paris to demand the hand 
Ambassador of the Princcss Margaret for 
A. D. 1160. the king's infant son, described 
with such minute accuracy by Fitz- 
S tephen,^^ he outshon e himself, yet might 
seem to have a loyal rather than a per- 
sonal aim in this unrivaled pomp. The 
French crowded from all quarters to 
see the splendid procession pass, and 
exclaimed, "What must be the king, 
whose Chancellor can indulge in such 
enormous expenditure ? " 
25 p. 196. 

Thomas a Bechet. 29 

Even in war tlie Chancellor liad dis- 
played not only the abilities of a gen- 
eral, but a personal prowess, which, 
though it found many precedents in 
those times, might appear somewhat 
incongruous in an ecclesiastic, who yet 
held all his clerical benefices. ^^^.^^ 
In the expedition made by King '^ouiouse.^ 
Henry to assert his right to the domin- 
ions of the Counts of Toulouse, Becket 
appeared at the head of seven hundred 
knights who did him service, and fore- 
most in every adventurous exploit was 
the valiant Chancellor. Becket's bold 
counsel urged the immediate storming 
of the city, which would have been 
followed by the captivity of the King 
of France. Henry, in whose character 
impetuosity was strangely molded up 
with irresolution, dared not risk this 
violation of feudal allegiance, the cap- 
tivity of his suzerain. The event of the 
war showed the policy as well as the 

30 Thomas a Bechet. 

superior military judgmeiit of the war- 
like Chancellor. At a period somewhat 
later, Becket, who was left to reduce 
certain castles which held out against 
his master, unhorsed in single combat 
and took prisoner a knight of great dis- 
tinction, Engelran de Trie. He return- 
ed to Henry in Kormandy at the head 
of 1200 knights and 4000 stipendiary 
horsemen, raised and maintained at his 
own charge. If indeed there were 
grave churchmen even in those days 
who were revolted by these achieve- 
ments in an ecclesiastic (he was still 
only in deacon's orders), the sentiment 
was by no means universal, nor even 
dominant. With some his valor and 
military skill only excited more ardent 
admiration. One of his biographers 
bursts out into this extraordinary pane- 
gyric on the Archdeacon of Canterbury : 
" Who can recount the carnage, the 
desolation, which he made at the head 

Thomas a B echet. 31 

of a strong body of soldiers ? He at- 
tacked castles, razed towns and cities to 
the ground, burned down bouses and 
farms without a touch of pity, and 
never showed the slightest mercy to any 
one who rose in insurrection against his 
master's authority. "^^ 

The services of Becket were not un- 
rewarded; the love and gratitude of 
his sovereign showered honors and 
emoluments upon him. Among his 
grants were the wardenship of the 
Tower of London, the lordship of the 
castle of Berkhampstead and the honor 
of Eye, with the service of a hundred 
and forty knights. Yet there must 
have been other and more pro- ^^^^.j^ ^^ 
lific sources of his wealth, so^^cket. 
lavishly displayed. Through his hands 
as Chancellor passed almost all grants 
and royal favors. He was the guardian 
of all escheated baronies and of all 
26 Edward Grim, p. 12. 

32 Thomas a Bechet. 

vacant benefices. It is said in Ms praise 
that he did not permit the king, as was 
common, to prolong those vacancies for 
his own advantage, that they were filled 
up with as much speed as possible ; but 
it should seem, by subsequent occur- 
rences, that no very strict account was 
kept of the king's monies spent by the 
Chancellor in the king's service and 
those expended by the Chancellor him- 
self. This seems intimated by the care 
which he took to secure a general quit- 
tance from the chief justiciary of the 
realm before his elevation to the arch- 

But if in his personal habits and oc- 
cupations Becket lost in some degree 
the churchman in the secular dignitary, 
was he mindful of the solemn trust im- 
posed upon him by his patron the arch- 
bishop, and true to the interests of his 
order ? Did xie connive at, or at least 
did he not resist, any invasion on eccle- 

Thomas a B ecTcet . 33 

elastic al immunities, or, as tliey were 
called, the liberties of the clergy ? did 
he hold their property absolutely sacred ? 
It is clear that he consented to levy the 
scutage, raised on the whole realm, on 
ecclesiastical as well as secular property. 
All that his friend John of Salisbury 
can allege in his defence is, that he bit- 
terly repented of having been the minis- 
ter of this iniquity. 2'^ " If with Saul he 
persecuted the Church, with Paul he is 

27 John of Salisbury denies that he sanctioned 
the rapacity of the king, and urges that he only 
yielded to necessity. Yet his exile was the just 
punishment of his guilt. " Tamen quia eum 
ministrum fuisse iniquitatis non ambigo, jure 
Optimo taliter arbitror punienjum ut eo potis- 
simum puniatur auctore, quern in talibus Deo 
bonorum omnium auctori preeferebat. . . . 
Sed esto ; nunc poenitentiam agit, agnoscit et 
confitetur culpam pro ea, et si cum Saulo quan- 
doque ecclesiam impugnavit, nunc, cum Paulo 
ponere paratus est animam suam." — Bouquet, 
p. 518. 

34 Thomas a Bechet. 

prepared to die for the Churcli." But 
probably the worst effect of this conduct 
as regards King Henry was the encour- 
agement of his fatal delusion that, as 
archbishop, Becket would be as submis- 
sive to his wishes in the affairs of the 
Church as had been the pliant Chancel- 
lor. It was the last and crowning mark 
of the royal confidence that Becket was 
intrusted with the education of the 
young Prince Henry, the heir to all the 
dominions of the king. 

Six years after the accession of Henry 
April, 1161. n. died Theobald Archbishop 
of Canterbury. On the character of his 
successor depended the peace of the 
realm, especially if Henry, as no doubt 
he did, already entertained designs of 
limiting the exorbitant power of the 
Church. Becket, ever at his right hand, 
could not but occur to the mind of the 
king. ISTothing in his habits of life or 
conduct could impair the hope that in 

Thomas d B echet. 35 

him the loyal, the devoted, it might 
seem unscrupulous subject, would pre- 
dominate over the rigid churchman. 
With such a prime minister, attached 
by former benefits, it might seem by 
the warmest personal love, still more 
by this last proof of boundless confi- 
dence, to his person, and as holding the 
united offices of Chancellor and Primate, 
ruling supreme both in Church and 
State, the king could dread no resis- 
tance, or if there were resistance, could 
subdue it without difficulty. 

Rumor had already designated Beck- 
et as the futare prim ate. A churchman, 
the Prior of Leicester, on a visit to 
Becket, who was ill at Rouen, pointing 
to his apparel, said, '' Is this a dress for 
an Archbishop of Canterbury ?" Becket 
himself had not disguised his hopes and 
fears. ''There are three poor priests in 
England, any one of whose elevation to 
the see of Canterbury I should wish 

36 Thomas d Beclcei, 

rather tlian my own. I know the very 
heart of the king; if I should be pro- 
moted, I must forfeit his favor or that 
of God."28 

The king did not suddenly declare 
his intentions. The see was vacant for 
above a y ear ,^^ and the administration of 
the revenues must have been in the de- 
partment of the Chancellor. At length 
as Becket, who had received a commis- 
sion to return to England on other af- 
fairs of moment, took leave of his sover- 
eign at Falaise, Henry hastily informed 
him that those affairs were not the main 
object of his mission to England — it was 
for his election to the vacant archbishop- 
ric. Becket remonstrated, but in vain ; 
he openly warned, it is said, his royal 
master that as Primate he must choose 

28 Fitz-Stephen, p. 193. 

29 Theobald died April 1 8, 1 1 61 . Becket was 
ordained priest and consecrated on Whitsunda; , 

Thomas a B ecTcet. 37 

between tlie favor of God and that of 
the king — ^he must prefer that of God."^'^ 
In those days the interests of the clergy 
and of God were held inseparable. 
Henry no donbt thought this but the 
decent resistance of an ambitions pre- 
late. The advice of Henry of Pisa, the 
Papal Legate, overcame the faint and 
lingering scruples of Becket : he passed 
to England with the king's recommen- 
dation, mandate it might be called, for 
his election. 

80 Yet Theobald, according to Jolin of Salis- 
bury, designed Becket for Ms successor, — 

** hunc (i. e. Becket Cancellarium) successurum sibi sperat 
et orat, 
Hie est carnificum qui jus cancellat iniquum, 

Quos habuit reges Anglia capta diu, 
Esse putans reges, quos est perpessa, tyrannos 
Plus veneratur eos, qui nocuere magis." 

Eniheticus^ 1. 1295. 

Did Becket decide against tbe Norman laws by 
the Anglo-Saxon? Has any one guessed the 
meaning of the rest of John's verses on the 
Chancellor and his Court? I confess myself 


38 Thomas d Bechet. 

All which to the king would desig- 
nate Becket as the future Primate could 
not but excite the apprehensions of the 
more rigorous churchmen. The monks 
of Canterbury, with whom rested the 
formal election, alleged as an insuper- 
able difficulty that Becket had never 
worn the monastic habit, as almost all 
his predecessors had done.^^ Tlie suffra- 
gan bishops would no doubt secretly 
resist the advancement, over all their 
heads, of a man who, latterly at least, 
had been more of a soldier, a courtier, 
and a lay statesman. ISTor could the 
prophetic sagacity of any but the wisest 
discern the latent churchmanship in the 
ambitious and inflexible heart of Becket. 
It is recorded on authority, which I do 
not believe doubtful as to its authen- 
ticity, but which is the impassioned 
statement of a declared enemy, .that 
nothing but the arrival of the great 

31 Roger de Pontigny, p. 100. 

Thomas, d B echet. 39 

justiciary, Richard de Luci, with the 
king's peremptory commands, and with 
personal menaces of proscription and 
exile against the more forward oppo- 
nents, awed the refractory monks and 
prelates to submission. 

At Whitsuntide Thomas Becket re- 
ceived priest's orders, and was then con- 
secrated Primate of England with great 
magnificence in the Abbey of West- 
minster. The see of London being 
vacant, the ceremony was performed by 
the once turbulent, now aged and peace- 
ful, Henry of Winchester, the brother 
of King Stephen. One voice alone, that 
of Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of Hereford,^^ 

82 In the memorable letter of Gilbert Foliot. 
Dr. Lingard observes that Mr. Berington has 
proved this letter to be spurious. I cannot see 
any force in Mr. Berington's arguments, and 
should certainly have paid more deference to 
Dr. Lingard himself if he had examined the 
question. It seems, moreover (if I rightly 
understand Dr. Giles, and I am not certain that 

40 Thomas d Bec'ket, 

broke the apparent harmonj by a 
bitter sarcasm — " The king has 
wrought a miracle ; he has turned a 
Gilbert soWier and a layman into an arch- 
Fouot. bishop." Gilbert Foliot, from 
first to last the firm and unawed antag- 
onist of Becket, is too important a per- 
sonage to be passed lightly by.^^ This 

I do), that it exists in more than one MS. of 
Foliot's letters. He has printed it as unques- 
tioned ; no very satisfactory proceeding in an 
editor. The conclusive argument for its authen- 
ticity with me is this: Who, after Becket's 
death and canonization, would have ventured 
or thought it worth while to forge such a let- 
ter ? To whom was Foliot's memory so dear, 
or Becket's so hateful, as to reopen the whole 
strife about his election and his conduct ? Be- 
sides, it seems clear that it is either a rejoinder 
to the long letter addressed by Becket to the 
clergy of England (Giles, iii. 170), or that letter 
is a rejoinder to Foliot's. Each is a violent 
party pamphlet against the other, and of great 
ability and labor. 
33 Foliot's nearest relatives, if not himself, 

Thomas a B echet. 41 

sally was attributed no doubt by some 
at the time, as it was the subject after- 
wards of many fierce taunts from Becket 
himself, and of lofty vindication by 
Foliot, to disappointed ambition, as 
though he himself aspired to the pri- 
macy. JS'or was there an ecclesiastic 
in England who might entertain more 
just hoj)es of advancement. He was 
admitted to be a man of unimpeachable 
life, of austere habits, and great learn- 
ing. He had been Abbot of Glouces- 
ter and then Bishop of Hereford. He 
was in correspondence with four succes- 
sive Popes, Coelestine H., Lucius H., 
Eugenius IH., Alexander, and with a 
familiarity which implies a high estima- 
tion for ability and experience. He is 
interfering in matters remote from his 
diocese, and commending other bishops, 

were Scotcli; one of them had forfeited his 
estate for fidelity to the King of Scotland. — 

Epis. ii. cclxxviii. 


42 Thomas d Bechet. 

Lincoln and Salisbniy, to the favorable 
consideration of the Pontiff. All his 
letters reveal as imperious and consci- 
entious a churchman as Becket himself, 
and in Becket's position Foliot might 
have resisted the king as inflexiblj.^^ 
He was, in short, a bold and stirring 
ecclesiastic, who did not scruple to 
wield, as he had done in several in- 
stances, that last terrible weapon of the 
clergy which burst on his own head, 
excommimication.^^ It may be added 
that, notwithstanding his sarcasm, there 
was no open breach between him and 
Becket. The primate acquiesced in, if 

34 Eead Ms letters before his elevation to the 
see of London. 

35 See, e.g., Epis. cxxxi., in which lie informs 
Archbishop Theobald that the Earl of Hereford 
held intercourse with William Beanchamp, ex- 
communicated by the Primate. "Yilescit 
anathematis authoritas, nisi et communicantes 
excommunicatis corripiat digna se Veritas." The 
Earl of Hereford must be placed under anathema. 

Thomas a B echet. 43 

he did not promote, the advancement 
of Folio t to the see of London ;^^ and 
during that period letters of courtesy 
which borders on adulation were inter- 
changed at least with apparent sin- 

The king had indeed wrought a 
greater miracle than himself intended, 
or than Foliot thought possible. Becket 
became at once not merely a decent 
prelate, but an austere and mortified 
monk : he seemed determined to make 
up for his want of ascetic qualifications; 
to crowd a whole life of monkhood into 

86 Lambeth, p. 9 1 . The election of the Bishop 
of Hereford to London is confirmed by the 
Pope's permission to elect him (March 19) rogatu 
H. regis et Archep. Cantuarensis. A letter 
from Pope Alexander on his promotion rebukes 
him for fasting too severely. — Epist. ccclix. 

37 Foliot, in a letter to Pope Alexander, main- 
tains the superiority of Canterbury over York. 
— cxlix. 

44 Thomas a Bechet. 

a few years.^^ Under his canonical dress 
lie wore a monk's frock, haircloth next 
his skin ; his studies, his devotions, were 
long, regular, rigid. At the mass he 
was frequently melted into passionate 
tears. In his outward demeanor, in- 
deed, though he submitted to private 
flagellation, and the most severe macer- 
ations, Becket was still the stately pre- 
late : his food, though scanty to abste- 
miousness, was, as his constitution re- 
quired, more delicate ; his charities were 
boundless. Archbishop Theobald had 
doubled the usual amount of the pri- 
mate's alms, Becket again doubled that; 
and every night in privacy, no doubt 

38 See on the change in his habits, Lambeth, 
p. 48 ; also the strange story, in Grim, of a 
monk who declared himself commissioned by 
a preterhuman person of terrible countenance to 
warn the Chancellor not to dare to appear in 
the choir, as he had done, in a secular dress. — 
p. 16. 

Thomas a Bechet. 45 

more ostentatious tlian the most public 
exhibition, with his own hands he 
washed the feet of thirteen beggars. 
His table was still hospitable and sump- 
tuous, but instead of knights and no- 
bles, he admitted only learned clerks, 
and especially the regulars, w^hom he 
courted with the most obsequious defer- 
ence. For the sprightly conversation 
of former times were read grave books 
in the Latin of the Church. 

But the change was not alone in his 
habits and mode of life. The King 
could not have reproved, he might have 
admired, the most punctilious regard for 
the decency and the dignity of the high- 
est ecclesiastic in the realm. But the 
inflexible churchman began to betray 
himself in more unexpected acts. While 
still in France Henry was startled at 
receiving a peremptory resignation of 
the chancellorship, as inconsistent with 
the religious functions of the primate. 

46 Thomas a Beclcet, 

This act was as it were a bill of divorce 
from all personal intimacy witli tlie king, 
a dissolution of their old familiar and 
friendly intercourse. It was not merely 
that the holy and austere prelate with- 
drew from the unbecoming pleasures 
of the court, the chase, the banquet, 
the tournament, even the war; they 
were no more to meet at the council 
board, and the seat of judicature. It 
had been said that Becket was co-sove- 
reign with the king, he now appeared 
(and there were not wanting secret and 
invidious enemies to suggest, and to in- 
flame the suspicion) a rival sovereign.^^ 
The king, when Becket met him on his 
landing at Southampton, did not at- 

89 Compare the letter of the politic Arnulf^ 
Bishop of Lisieux: " Si enimfavori divino favo- 
rem prasferritis humanum, poteratis noii solum 
cum summa tranquillitate degere, sed ipso etiam 
magis quam olim, Principe conregnare." — Apud 
Bouquet, xvi. p. 229. 

Thomas a B echet. 47 

tempt to conceal his dissatisfaction ; his 
reception of his old friend was cold. 

It were unjust to human nature, to 
suppose that it did not cost Becket a 
violent struggle, a painful sacrifice, 
thus as it were to rend himself from 
the familiarity and friendship of his 
munificent benefactor. It was no doubt 
a severe sense of duty which crushed 
his natural afiections, especially as vul- 
gar ambition must have pointed out a 
more sure and safe way to power and 
fame. Such ambition would hardly 
have hesitated between the ruling all 
orders through the king, and the soli- 
tary and dangerous position of opposing 
so powerful a monarch to maintain the 
interests and secure the favor of one 
order alone. 

Henry was now fully occupied with 
the affairs of Wales. Becket, with the 
royal sanction, obeyed the summons 
of Pope Alexander to the Council of 

48 Thomas a BeoTcet. 

Tours. Becket had passed through part 
of France at the head of an army of his 
own raising, and under his command ; 
he had passed a second time as repre- 
senting the king ; he was yet to pass as 
Becketat an -cxile. At Tours, where 
19, 1163. Pope Alexander now held his 
court, and presided over his council, 
Becket appeared at the head of all the 
Bishops of England, except those ex- 
cused on account of age or infirmity. 
So great was his reputation, that the 
Pope sent out all the cardinals except 
those in attendance on his own person 
to escort the primate of England into 
the city. In the council at Tours not 
merely was the title of Alexander to 
the popedom avouched with perfect 
unanimity, but the rights and privileges 
of the clergy asserted with more than 
usual rigor and distinctness. Some 
canons, one especially which severely 
condemned all encroachments on the 

Thomas a B echet. 49 

property of the Churcli, raiglit seem 
framed almost with a view to the im- 
pending strife with England. 

That strife, so impetuous might seem 
the combatants to join issue, Beginning 
broke out, during the next year, °^ ^*'^'^®- 
in all its violence. Both parties, if they 
did not commence, were prepared for 
aggression. The first occasion of pub- 
lic collision was a dispute concerning 
the customary payment of the ancient 
Danegelt, of two shillings on every hide 
of land, to the sherifi*s of the several 
counties. The king determined to 
transfer this payment to his own ex- 
chequer : he summoned an assembly at 
Woodstock, and declared his intentions. 
All were mute but Becket ; the arch- 
bishop opposed the enrolment of the 
decree, on the ground that the tax was 
voluntary, not of right. " By the eyes 
of God," said Henry, his usual oath, 
" it shall be enrolled !" " By the same 

50 Thomas a Bechet. 

ejes, by wliicli jou swear," replied tlie 
prelate, " it shall never be levied on 
mj lands while I live !"^ On Becket's 
part, almost the first act of bis primacy 
was to vindicate all tbe rights, and to 
resnme all the property which had been 
nsnrped, or which he asserted to have 
been nsnrped, from his see.**^ It was not 
likely that, in the turbulent times jnst 
gone by, there would have been rigid 
respect for the inviolability of sacred 
property. The title of the Church was 
held to be indefeasible. Whatever had 
once belonged to the Church might be 
recovered at any time ; and the ecclesi- 

40 This strange scene is recorded by Eoger de 
Pontignj, who received his information on all 
those circumstances from Becket himself, or 
from his followers. See also Grim, p. 22. 

41 Becket had been compelled to give up the 
rich archdeaconry of Canterbury, which he 
seemed disposed to hold with the archbishopric. 
Geoffrey Eidel, who became archdeacon, was 
afterwards one of his most active enemies. 

Thomas a Bechet. 51 

as^ical courts claimed tlie sole right of 
adjudication in sncli causes. The pri- 
mate was thus at once plaintiff, judge, 
and carried into execution his own 
judgments. Tlie lord of the manor of 
E jnsford in Kent, who held of the king, 
claimed the right of presentation to that 
benefice. Becket asserted the preroga- 
tive of the see of Canterbury. On the 
forcible ejectment of his nominee by 
the lord, William of Ejnsford, Becket 
proceeded at once to a sentence of ex- 
communication, without regard to Eyns- 
ford's feudal superior the king. The 
primate next demanded the castle of 
Tunbridge from the head of the power- 
ful family of De Clare ; though it had 
been held by De Clare, and it claims of 
was asserted, received in ex- ^^'=^^^- ^ 
change for a ISTorman Castle, since the 
time of William the Conqueror. The 
attack on De Clare might seem a defi- 
ance of the whole feudal nobilitv ; a de- 

52 Thomas a Bec'ket, 

termination to despoil them of their con- 
quests, or grants from the sovereign. 

The king, on his side, wisely chose 
the strongest and more popular ground 
of the immunities of the clergy from all 
temporal jm-isdiction. He appeared as 
guardian of the public morals, as ad- 
ministrator of equal justice to all his 
Immunities suLjects, as protcctor of the 
clergy. peace of the realm. Crimes 
of great atrocity, it is said, of great fre- 
quency, crimes such as robbery and 
homicide, crimes for which secular 
persons were hanged by scores and 
without mercy, were committed almost 
with impunity, or with punishment 
altogether inadequate to the offence by 
the clergy; and the sacred name of 
clerk, exempted not only bishops, ab- 
bots, and priests, but those of the low- 
est ecclesiastical rank from the civil 
power. It was the inalienable right of 
the clerk to be tried only in the court 

Thomas a B echet . 53 

of his bisliop ; and as tliat court could 
not award capital pnnislinient, the ut- 
most penalties were flagellation, impris- 
onment, and degradation. It was only 
after degradation, and for a second 
off'ence (for the clergy strenuously in- 
sisted on the injustice of a second trial 
for the same act,)^^ that the meanest of 
the clerical body could be brought to 
the level of the most highborn layman. 
But to cede one tittle of these immuni- 
ties, to surrender the sacred person of a 
clergyman, whatever his guilt, to the 
secular power, was treason to the sacer- 
dotal order: it was giving up Christ 

42 The king was willing that the clerk guilty 

of murder or robbery should be degraded before 

he was hanged, but hanged he should be. The 

archbishop insisted that he should be safe " a 

Isesione membrorum." Degradation was in 

itself so dreadful a punishment, that to hang 

also for the same crime was a double penalty. 

" If he returned to his vomit," after degradation, 

"he might be hanged." — Compare Grim, p. 30. 

64: Thomas a BecTcet. 

(for the Redeemer was supposed actu- 
ally to dwell in tlie clerk, though his 
hands might be stained with innocent 
blood) to be crucified by the heathen.^ 
To mutilate the person of one in holy^ 
orders was directly contrary to the 
Scripture (for with convenient logic, 
while the clergy rejected the example 
of the Old Testament as to the equal 
liability of priest and Levite with the 
ordinary Jew to the sentence of the law, 
they alleged it on their own part as un- 
answerable.) It was inconceivable, that 
hands which had but now made God 
should be tied behind the back, like 
those of a common malefactor, or that 
his neck should be wrung on a gibbet, 
before whom kings had but now bowed 
in reverential homage.^ 

The enormity of the evil is acknowl- 

43 " De novo jndicatur Christns ante Pilatum 
pr£esidem." — ^De Bosham, p. 117. 

44 De Bosham, p. 100. 

Thomas d B echet. 55 

edged by Becket's most ardent parti- 
sans.^^ The king had credible informa- 
tion laid before liim that some of the 
clergy were absolute devils in gnilt, 
that their wickedness conld not be 
repressed by the ordinary means of 

45 The fairness with which the question is 
stated by Herbert de Bosham, thB follower, 
almost the worshiper of Becket, is remarkable. 
" Arctabatur itaqne rex, arctabatur et pontifex. 
Rex etenim populi sui pacem, sicut archipraesul 
cleri sui zelans libertatem, andiens sic et videns 
et ad mnltorum relationes et querimonias acci- 
piens, per hujuscemodi castigationes, talium 
clericorum immo verius caracterizatorum, daomo- 
num flagitia non reprimi vel potius indies per 
regnnm deterius fieri." He proceeds to state 
at length the argument on both sides. Another 
biographer of Becket makes strong admissions 
of the crimes of the clergy : " Sed et ordinato- 
rum inordinati mores, inter regem et archepis- 
copum auxere malitiam, qui solito abundantius 
per idem tempus apparebant publicis irretiti 
criminibus." — ^Edw. Grim, It was said that no 
less than 100 of the clergy were charged with 

56 Thomas a Beclcet. 

justice, and were daily growing worse. 
Becket himself had protected some 
notorious and heinous oiFenders. A 
clerk of the diocese of Worcester had 
debauched a maiden and murdered her 
father. Becket ordered the man to be 
kept in prison, and refused to surrender 
him to the king's justice.^^ Another in 
London, guilty of stealing a silver gob- 
let, was claimed as only amenable to 
the ecclesiastical court. Philip de 
Brois, a canon of Bedford, had been 
guilty of homicide. The cause was 
tried in the bishop's court ; he was 
condemned to pay a fine to the kindred 
of the slain man. Some time after, 
Fitz-Peter, the king's justiciary, whe- 
ther from private enmity or offence, or 
dissatisfied with the ecclesiastical ver- 
dict, in the open court at Dunstable, 
called De Brois a murderer. De Brois 

46 This, according to Fitz-Stephen, was the 
first cause of quarrel with the king. p. 215. 

Thomas a Bechet. 57 

broke out into angry and contumelious 
language against the judge. The in- 
sult to the justiciary was held to be in- 
sult to the king, who sought justice, 
where alone he could obtain it, in the 
bishop's court. Philip de Brois this 
time incurred a sentence, to our notions 
almost as disproportionate as that for 
his former offence. He was condemn- 
ed to be publicly whipped, and de- 
graded for two years from the honors 
and emoluments of his canonry. But 
to the king the verdict appeared far too 
lenient ; the spiritual jurisdiction was 
accused as shielding the criminal from 
his due penalty. 

Such were the questions on which 
Becket was prepared to confront character 
and to wage war to the death ofthemn^ 
with the king ; and all this with a de- 
liberate knowledge both of the power 
and the character of Henry, his power 
as undisputed sovereign of England 

58 Thomas a Bechet. 

and of continental territories more ex- 
tensive and flourisliing tlian those of 
the king of France. These dominions 
included those of the Conqneror and 
his descendants, of the Counts of Anjou, 
and the great inheritance of his wife, 
Queen Eleanor, the old kingdom of 
Aquitaine ; they reached from the 
borders of Flanders round to the foot 
of the Pyrenees. This almost unrival- 
ed power could not but have worked 
with the strong natural, passions of 
Henry to form the character drawn by 
a churchman of great ability, who 
would warn Becket as to the formidable 
adversary whom he had undertaken to 
oppose, — " You have to deal with one 
on whose policy the most distant sov- 
ereigns of Europe, on whose power his 
neighbors, on whose severity his sub- 
jects look with awe; whom constant 
successes and prosperous fortune have 
rendered so sensitive, that every act of 

.Thomas dBechet, 59 

disobedience is a personal outrage; 
wliom it is as easy to provoke as diffi- 
cult to appease ; who encourages no 
rash offence by impunity, but whose 
vengeance is instant and summary. He 
will sometimes be softened by humility 
and patience, but will never submit to 
compulsion ; everything must seem to 
be conceded by his own free will, noth- 
ing wrested from his weakness. He is 
more covetous of glory than of gain, a 
commendable quality in a prince, if 
virtue and truth, not the vanity and 
soft flattery of courtiers, awarded that 
glory. He is a great, indeed the great- 
est of kings, for he has no superior of 
whom he may stand in dread, no sub- 
ject who dares to resist him. His nat- 
ural ferocity has been subdued by no 
calamity from without ; all who have 
been involved in any contest with him, 
have preferred the most precarious 
treaty to a trial of strength with one so 

60 Thomas a Bechet. 

pre-eminent in wealth, in the number 
of his forces, and the greatness of his 

A king of this character would eager- 
ly listen to suggestions of interested or 
flattering courtiers, that unless the 
Primate's power were limited, the au- 
thority of the king would be reduced to 
nothing. The succession to the throne 
would depend entirely on the clergy, 
and he himself would reign only so 
long as might seem good to the Arch- 
bishop. IS^or were they the baser cour- 
tiers alone who feared and hated Becket. 

47 See throughout this epistle of Arnulf of 
Lisieux, Bouquet, p. 230. This same Arnulf 
was a crafty and double-dealing prelate. Grim 
and Eoger de Pontigny say that he suggested 
to Henry the policy of making a party against 
Becket among the English bishops, while to 
Becket he plays the part of confidential coun- 
sellor.— Grim, p. 29. R. P., p. 119. Will. 
Canterb., p. 6. Compare on Arnulf, Epist. 346, 
V. 11, p. 189. 

Thomas cl Bechet. 61 

The nobles miglit tremble from the ex- 
ample of De Clare, with whose power- 
ful house almost all the [N'orman baron- 
age was allied, lest every royal grant 
should be called in question^^ Even 
among the clergy Becket had bitter 
enemies ; and though at first they ap- 
peared almost as jealous as the Primate 
for the privileges of their order, the 
most able soon espoused the cause of 
the King ; those who secretly favored 
him were obliged to submit in silence. 
The Eng, determined to bring these 
fi^reat questions to issue summon- Parliament 

1 -r» T -TTT • ofWest- 

ed a Jr arliament at W estmmster. minster. 
He commenced the proceedings by en- 
larging on the abuses of the archidiac- 
onal courts. The archdeacons kept 
the most watchful and inquisitorial 
Buperintendence over the laity, but 
every offence was easily commuted for 

43 These are tlie words wMch Fitz-Stephen 
places in the mouths of the king's courtiers. 

62 Thomas a JB echet . 

a pecuniary fine, wMcli fell to tliem. 
The King complained that they levied 
a revenue from the sins of the people 
equal to his own, yet that the public 
morals were only more deeply and ir- 
retrievably depraved. He then de- 
manded that all clerks accused of hein- 
ous crimes should be immediately de- 
graded and handed over to the officers 
of his justice, to be dealt with accord- 
ing to law ; for their guilt, instead of 
deserving a lighter punishment, was 
doubly guilty : he demanded this in 
the name of equal justice and the peace 
of the realm. Becket insisted on delay 
till the next morning, in order that he 
might consult his suffragan bishops. 
This the King refused : the bishops 
withdrew to confer upon their answer. 
The bishops were disposed to yield, 
some doubtless impressed with the jus- 
tice of the demand, some from fear of 
the King, some from a prudent convic- 

Thorn a sd Beclcet. 63 

tion of the danger of provoking so 
powerful a monarch, and of involving 
the Church in a quarrel with Hemy at 
the perilous time of a contest for the 
Papacy w^hich distracted Europe. Beck- 
et inflexibly maintained the inviola- 
bility of the holy persons of the clergy .^^ 
The King then demanded whether they 
would observe the "customs of the 
realm." "Saving my order," replied 
the Archbishop. That order was still 
to be exempt from all jurisdiction but 
its own. So answered all the bishops 
except Hilary of Chichester, who made 
the declaration without reserve.^*^ The 
King hastily broke up the assembly, 
and left London in a state of consterna- 
tion, the people and the clergy agitated 
by conflicting anxieties. He immediate- 

49 Herbert de Bosham, p. 109. Fitz-Stephen, 

p. 209, et seq. 

50 "Dicens se observaturos regias consuetu- 
dines bona fide." 

64: Thomas a Beclcet. 

\j deprived Eecket of tlie custody of 
tlie Eoyal Castles, whicli lie still retain- 
ed, and of the momentons charge, the 
education of his son. The bishops en- 
treated Becket either to withdraw or to 
change the offensive word. At first he 
declared that if an angel from Heaven 
should counsel such weakness, he would 
hold him accursed. At length, how- 
ever, he yielded, as Herbert de Bosham 
asserts out of love for the King,^^ by 
another account at the persuasion of 
the Pope's Almoner, said to have been 
bribed by English gold.^^ He went to 
Oxford and made the concession. 

The King, in order to ratify with the 

Jan. 1154; utmost solemnity the concession 

extorted from the bishops, and even 

from Becket himself, summoned a great 

., , council of the realm to Claren- 

/Council of 

Clarendon, ^q-^^ ^ royal palace between 

51 Compare W. Canterb., p. 6. 

52 Grim, p. 29. 

Thomas a B echet. 65 

three and four miles from Salisbury. 
The two archbishops and eleven bishops, 
between thirty and forty of the highest 
nobles, with numbers of inferior barons, 
were present. It was the King's ob- 
ject to settle beyond dispute the main 
points in contest between the Crown 
and the Church ; to establish thus, with 
the consent of the whole nation, an 
English Constitution in Church and 
State. Becket, it is said, had been as- 
sured by some about the King that a 
mere assent would be demanded to 
vague an ambiguous, and therefore on 
occasion disputable customs. But 
when these customs, which had been 
collected and put in writing by the 
King's order, appeared in the form of 
precise and binding laws, drawn up 
with legal technicality by the Chief 
Justiciary, he saw his error, wavered, 
and endeavored to recede.^^ The King 

53 Dr. Lingard supposes tliat Becket demand- 

Thomas a BecTtet, 

broke out into one of Ms ungovernable 
fits of passion. One or two of the 
bishops wlio were ont of favor with tlie 
King and two knights Templars on 
their knees implored Becket to abandon 
his dangerous, fruitless, and ill-timed 
resistance. The Archbishop took the 
oath, which had been already sworn to 
by all the lay barons. He was follow- 
ed by the rest of the bishops, re- 
luctantly according to one account, 
and compelled on one side by their 
dread of the lay barons, on the other 
by the example and authority #f the 
Primate, according to Becket's biog- 

ed that the customs should be reduced to writ- 
ing. This seems quite contrary to his policy ; 
and Edward Grim writes thus : " ISTam domes- 
tici regis, dato consentiente consilio, securem 
fecerant archepiscopum, quod nunquam scribe- 
rentuT leges, nunquam illarum fieret recordatio, 
si eum verbo tantum in audientia procerum 
honorasset," &c, — P. 81. 

Thomas a B echet. ^ 67 

rapliers, eagerly and of tlieir own ac- 

These famous constitutions were of 
course feudal in tlieir form and spirit. 
But they aimed at the subjection of all 
the great prelates of the realm constitutions 
to the Crown to the same ex- ofciarendon. 
tent as the great barons. The new con- 
stitution of England made the bishops' 
fiefs to be granted according to the 
royal will, and subjected the whole of 
the clergy equally with the laity to the 
common laws of the land.^^ I. On the 
vacancy of every archbishopric, bishop- 
ric, abbey, or priory, the revenues came 
into the Bang's hands. He was to sum- 
mon those who had the right of election, 
which was to take place in the King's 
Chapel, with his consent, and the coun- 

54 See the letter of Gilbert Foliot, of whicli I 
do not doubt the authenticity. 

55 According to the Cottonian copy, publish- 
ed by Lord Lyttelton, Constitutions xii. xv. iv. 

Thomas a Beehet. 

sel of nobles chosen by the King for 
this office. The prelate elect was im- 
mediately to do homage to the King as 
his liege lord, for life, limb, and worldly 
honors, excepting his order. The arch- 
bishops, bishops, and all beneficiaries, 
held their estates on the tenure of 
baronies, amenable to the King's jus- 
tice, and bound to sit with the other 
barons in all pleas of the Crown, except 
in capital cases, l^o archbishop, bishop, 
or any other person could quit the 
realm without royal permission, or with- 
out taking an oath at the King's requi- 
sition, not to do any damage either 
going, staying, or returning, to the King 
or the kingdom. 

II. All clerks accused of any crime 
were to be summoned before the King's 
Courts. The King's justiciaries were 
to decide whether it was a case for civil 
or ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Those 
which belonged to the latter were to be 

Thomas a Beclcet. 69 

removed to tlie Bishops' Court. If the 
clerk was found guilty or confessed his 
guilt, the Church could protect him no 

in. All disputes concerning advow- 
sons and presentations to benefices were 
to be decided in the King's Courts ; and 
the King's consent was necessary for the 
appointment to any benefice within the 
King's domain.^^ 

lY. ISTo tenant in chief of the King, 
none of the oflicers of the Eling's house- 
hold, could be excommunicated, nor his 
lands placed under interdict, until due 
information had been laid before the 
King ; or, in his absence from the realm, 
before the great Justiciary, in order that 
he might determine in each case the 
respective rights of the civil and eccle- 
siastical courts.^^ 

56 Constitution iii. 57 Constitutions i. and ii. 
58 Constitution vii., somewhat limited and 
explained by x. 

70 Thomas a Bechet. 

Y. Appeals lay from the archdeacon 
to the bishop, from the bishop to the 
Archbishop. On failure of justice by 
the Archbishop, in the last resort to 
the King, who was to take care that 
justice was done in the Archbishop's 
Conrt ; and no further appeal was to be 
made without the King's consent. This 
was manifestly and avowedly intended 
to limit appeals to Rome. 

All these statutes, in number sixteen, 
were restrictions on the distinctive 
immunities of the clergy ; one, and 
that unnoticed, was really an invasion 
of popular freedom ; no son of a villien 
could be ordained without the consent 
of his lord. 

Some of these customs were of doubt- 
ful authenticity. On the main ques- 
tion, the exorbitant powers of the eccle- 
siastical courts and the immunity of the 
clergy from all other jurisdiction, there 
was an unrepealed statute of William 

Thomas a Beehet. 71 

the Conqueror. Before the Conquest 
the bishop sate with the alderman in 
the same court. The statute of William 
created a separate jurisdiction of great 
extent in the spiritual court. Tliis was 
not done to aggrandize the Church, of 
which in some respects the Conqueror 
was jealous, but to elevate the import- 
ance of the great l^orman prelates 
whom he had thrust into the English 
sees. It raised another class of power- 
ful feudatories to support the foreign 
throne, bound to it by common interest 
as well as by the attachment of race. 
But at this time neither party took any 
notice of the ancient statute. The King's 
advisers of course avoided the danger- 
ous question :, Becket and the Church- 
men (Becket himself declared that he 
was unlearned in the customs), standing 
on the divine and indefeasible right of 
the clergy, could hardly rest on a recent 
statute granted by the royal will, and 

72 Thomas a Bechet. 

therefore liable to be ammlled by the 
same antliority. Tlie .Customs, they 
averred, were of themselves illegal, as 
clashing with higher irrepealable laws. 

To these Customs Becket had now 
sworn without reserve. Three copies 
were ordered to be made — one for the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, one for 
York, one to be laid up in the royal 
archives. To these the King demand- 
ed the further guarantee of the seal of 
the different parties. The Primate, 
whether already repenting of his assent, 
or under the vague impression that this 
was committing himself still further 
(for oaths might be absolved, seals could 
not be torn from public documents), 
now obstinately refused to make any 
further concession. The refusal threw 
suspicion on the sincerity of his former 
act. The King, the other prelates, the 
nobles, all but Becket,^^ subscribed and 

59 Herbert de Bosham. " Oaiite qnidam 

Thomas d B ecTcet . 73 

sealed the Constitutions of Clarendon as 
tlie laws of England. 

As the Primate rode from Winches- 
ter in profound silence, meditating on 
the acts of the council and on his own 
conduct, one of his attendants, who has 
himself related the conversation, endea- 
vored to raise his spirits. ^' It is a fit 
punishment," said Becket, "for one 
w^ho, not trained in the school of the 
Saviour, but in the King's court, a man 
of pride and vanity, from a follower of 
hawks and hounds, a patron of players, 
has dared to assume the care of so many 
souls." ^^ De Bosham significantly re- 
minded his master of St. Peter, his 
denial of the Lord, his subsequent 

non de piano negat, sed differendum dicebat 

60 " Superbiis et vanus, de pastore avium 
factus sum pastor ovium ; dudum fautor histrio- 
num et eorum sectator tot animarum pastor."— 
De Bosliam, p. 126. 

74 Thomas a Bechet. 

repentance. On his return to Canter- 
bury Becket imposed npon himself 
the severest mortification, and suspend- 
ed himself from his function of offering 
the sacrifice on the altar. He wrote 
April 1. almost immediately to the Pope 
to seek counsel and absolution from his 
oath. He received both. The absolu- 
tion restored all his vivacity. 

But the King had likewise his emis- 
saries with the Pope at Sens. He 
endeavored to obtain a legatine com- 
mission over the whole realm of Eng- 
land for Becket's enemy, Roger Arch- 
bishop of York, and a recommendation 
from the Pope to Becket to observe the 
" customs" of the realm. Two embas- 
sies were sent by the King for this end : 
first the Bishops of Lisieux and Poitiers ; 
then Geoffrey Ridel, Archdeacon of 
Canterbury (who afterwards appears so 
hostile to the Primate as to be called by 
him that archdevil, not archdeacon). 

Thomas a B ecJiet . 75 

and the subtle Jolin of Oxford. The 
embarrassed Pope (throughout it must 
be remembered that there was a formid- 
able Antipope), afraid at once of estrang- 
ing Henry, and unwilling to abandon 
Becket, granted the legation to the 
Archbishop of York. To the Primate's 
great indignation, Roger had his cross 
borne before him in the province of 
Canterbury. On Becket' s angry re- 
monstrance, the Pope, while on the one 
hand he enjoined on Becket the greatest 
caution and forbearance in the inevit- 
able contest, assured him that he would 
never permit the see of Canterbury to 
be subject to any authority but his 

6iKead the Epistles, apnd Giles, v. iv. 1, 3, 
Bonquet, xvi. 210, to judge of the skillful steer- 
ing and difficulties of the Pope. There is a 
very curious letter of an emissary of Becket, 
describing the death of the Antipope (he died 
at Lucca, April 21). The canons of San Fredi- 

76 Thomas a Bechet. 

Becket secretly went down to liis 
estate at Romney, near the sea-coast, in 
tlie hope of crossing the straits, and so 
finding refuge and maintaining his cause 
by his personal presence with the Pope. 
Stormy weather forced him to abandon 
his design. He then betook himself to 
the King at Woodstock. He was cold- 
ly received. The King at first dissem- 

ano, in Lucca, refused to bury Mm, because he 
was already " buried in lielL" The writer an- 
nounces that the Emperor also was ill, that the 
Empress had miscarried, and that therefore 
all France adhered with greater devotion to 
Alexander; and the Legatine com7mssion to 
the Archtishop of Yorlc had expired without hope 
oj recovery. The writer ventures, however, to 
suggest to Becket to conduct himself with 
modesty ; to seek rather than avoid intercourse 
with the king. — Apud Giles, iv. 240 ; Bouquet, 
p. 210. See also the letter of John, Bishop of 
Poitiers, who says of the Pope, " Gravi redimit 
poenitenti4, illam qualem qualem quam Ebo- 
racensi (fecerit), concessionem." — Bouquet, p. 

Thomas a B ecTcet. 77 

bled his knowledge of the Primate's 
attempt to cross the sea, a direct viola- 
tion of one of the constitutions ; but on 
his departure he asked with bitter jocu- 
larity whether Becket had sought to 
leave the realm because England could 
not contain himself and the King.^^ 

The tergiversation of Becket, and his 
attempt thus to violate one of the Con- 
stitutions of Clarendon, to w^hich he 
had sworn, showed that he was not 
to be bound by oaths. E'o treaty could 
be made where one party claimed -the 
power of retracting, and might at any 
time be released from his covenant. In 
the mind of Henry, whose will had 
never yet met resistance, the determina- 
tion was confirmed, if he could not sub- 
due the Prelate, to crush the refractory 

62 I follow De Bosham, Fitz-Stephen says 
that lie was repelled from the gates of the king's 
palace at Woodstock ; and that he afterwards 
went to Eomney to attempt to cross the sea. 

78 Thomas a Bec'ket. 

subject. Eecket's enemies possessed 
tlie King's ear. Some of tliose enemies 
no donbt hated Mm for Ms former favor 
with the King, some dreaded lest the 
severity of so inflexible a prelate should 
curb their license, some held property 
belonging to or claimed by the Church, 
some to flatter the King, some in honest 
indignation at the duplicity of Becket 
and in love of peace, but all concurred 
to inflame the resentment of Henry, and 
to attribute to Becket words and de- 
signs insulting to the King and disparag- 
ing to the royal authority. Becket, 
holding such notions as he did of Church 
power, would not be cautious in assert- 
ing it ; and whatever he might utter in 
his pride would be embittered rather 
than softened when repeated to the 

Since the Council of Clarendon Beck- 
et stood alone. All the higher clergy, 
the great prelates of the kingdom, were 

Thomas a B ec' '79 

now either his open adversaries or were 
compelled to dissemble their favor to- 
wards him. Whether alienated, as 
some declared, by his pusillanimity at 
Clarendon, bribed by the gifts or over- 
awed by the power of the King, whe- 
ther conscientionsly convinced that in 
such times of schism and division it 
might be fatal to the interests of the 
Church to advance her loftiest preten- 
sions, all, esj)ecially the Archbishop of 
York, the Bishops of London, Salisbury 
and Chichester, were arrayed on the 
'King's side. Becket himself attributed 
the chief guilt of his persecution to the 
bishops. " The King would have been 
quiet if they had not been so tamely 
subservient to his wishes."'^^ 

Before the close of the year Becket was 
cited to appear before a great council of 

63 " Quievisset ille, si non acquievissent illi." 
— ^Becket, Epist. ii. p. 5. Compare the whole 

80 Thomas a Bechet. 

So^lLTmpton! the realm, at mrtliampton. 
Oct. 6, 1164 j^ii England crowded to wit- 
ness tills final strife, it miglit be between 
tlie royal and the ecclesiastical power. 
The Primate entered l^ortliampton with 
only bis own retinue; the King had 
passed the afternoon amnsing himself 
with hawking in the pleasant meadows 
around. The Archbishoj), on the fol- 
lowing morning after mass, appeared 
in the King's chamber with a cheerful 
countenance. The King gave not, ac- 
cording to English custom, the kiss of 

The citation of the Primate before 
the King in council at J^orthampton 
was to answer a charge of withholding 
justice from John the Marshall em- 
ployed in the king's exchequer, who 
claimed the estate of Pagaham from 
the see of Canterbury. Twice had 
Becket been summoned to appear in 
the king's court to answer for this denial 

Thomas a B echet . 81 

of justice : once lie had refused to ap- 
pear, the second time lie did not appear 
m person. Becket in vain alleged an 
informality in tlie original proceedings 
of John the Marshall.^^ The court, the 
bishops, as well as the barons, declared 
him guilty of contumacy ; all his goods 
and chattels became, according to the 
legal phrase, at the king's mercy.^^ 
Tlie line was assessed at 500 pounds. 
Becket submitted, not without bitter 
irony : " This, then, is one of the new 
customs of Clarendon." But he pro- 
tested against the unheard-of audacity 
that the bishops should presume to sit 
in judgment on their spiritual j)arent ; 

64 He had been sworn not on the Gospels, but 
on a troplogium, a book of church music. 

65 Goods and chattels at the king's mercy 
were redeemable at a customary fine : this fine, 
accoiding to the customs of Kent, would have 
been larger than according to those of London. 
— ^Fitz-Stephen. 

82 T Ibomas a B echet. 

it was a greater crime than to uncover 
tlieir father's nakedness.^*^ Sarcasms 
and protests passed alike without no- 
tice. But the bishops, all except Foliot, 
Demands conscuted to bccome sureties for 
on Becket. ^|^^g exorbltaut fine. Demands 
rising one above another seemed framed 
for the purpose of, reducing the Arch- 
bishop to the humiliating condition of 
a debtor to the King, entirely at his 
disposal. First 300 pounds w^ere de- 
manded as due from the castles of Eye 
and Berkhampstead. Becket pleaded 
that he had expended a much larger 
sum on the repairs of the castles : he 
found sureties likewise for this pay- 
ment, the Earl of Gloucester, William 
of Eynsford, and another of " his men." 
The next day the demand was for 500 
pounds lent by the King during the 

66 " Minus fore malum verenda patris detecta 
deridere, quam patris ipsius personam judicare." • 
— ^De Bosham, p. 135. 

Thomas a J3 echet . 83 

siege of Toulouse. Becket declared that 
this was a gift, not a loan f"^ but the 
King denying the plea, judgment was 
again entered, against Becket. At 
last came the overwhelming charge, an 
account of all the monies received dur- 
ing his chancellorship from the vacant 
archbishopric and from other bishoprics 
and abbeys. The debt was calculated 
at the enormous sum of 44,000 marks. 
Becket was astounded at this unexpect- 
ed claim. As chancellor, in all likeli- 
hood, he had kept no very strict ac- 
count of what was expended in his own 
and in the royal service ; and the King 
seemed blind to this abuse of the royal 
right, by which so large a sum had ac- 
cumulated by keeping open those bene- 
fices which ought to have been instantly 
filled. Becket, recovered from his first 

6"^ Fitz-Stephen states this demand at 500 
marks, and a second 500 for which a bond had 
been sriven to a Jew. 

84 Thomas d Bechet. 

amazement, replied that lie liad not 
been cited to answer onsncli charge; at 
another time he shonld be prepared to 
answer all just demands of the Crown. 
He now requested delay, in order to 
advise with his snffragans and the 
clergy. He withdrew; bnt from that 
time no single baron visited the object 
of the royal disfavor. Becket assem- 
bled all the poor, even the beggars, 
who conld be fonnd, to fill his vacant 

In his extreme exigency the Primate 
Takes coun- consultcd Separately first the 
bishops. bishops, then the abbots. 
Their adivce was different according to 
their characters and their sentiments 
towards him. He had what might seem 
an unanswerable plea, a formal acquit- 
tance from the Chief Justiciary De Luci, 
the King's representative, for all obli- 
gations incurred in his civil capacity 
before his consecration as archbish- 

Thomas a B echet . 85 

op.^^ Tlie King, however, it was 
known, declared that he had given 
no snch anthority. Becket had the 
further excuse that all which he now 
possessed was the property of the 
Church, and could not be made liable 
for responsibilities incurred in a sec- 
ular capacity. The bishops, how- 
ever, were either convinced of the 
insufficiency or the inadmissibility of 
that plea. Henry of Winchester recom- 
mended an endeavor to purchase the 
King's pardon ; he offered 2000 marks 
as his contribution. Others urged 

68 Neither party denied this acquittance given 
in the King's name by the justiciary Eichard de 
Luci. This, it should seem, unusual precaution, 
or at least this precaution taken with such un- 
usual care, seems to imply some suspicion that 
without it, the archbishop was liable to be called 
to account ; an account which probably, from ' 
the splendid prodigality with which Becket had 
lavished the King's money and his own, it might 
be diflacult or inconvenient to produce. 

86 Thomas a B ec'ket . 

Becket to stand on his dignity, to defy 
the worst, under the shelter of his 
priesthood; no one would venture to 
lay hands on a holy prelate. Foliot 
and his party betrayed their object.^^ 
They exhorted him as the only way of 
averting the implacable wrath of the 
King at once to resign his see. '' "Wonld," 
said Hilary of Chichester, " you were 
no longer archbishop, but plain Tho- 
mas. Thou knowest the King better 
than we do ; he has declared that thou 
and he cannot remain together in Eng- 
land, he as King, thou as Primate. 
Who will be bound for such an amount? 
Throw thyself on the King's mercy, or 

69 In an account of this affair, written later, 
Becket accuses Foliot of aspiring to the primacy 
— "et qui adspirabant ad fastigium ecclesi89 
Cantuarensis, ut vulgo dicitur et creditur, in 
nostram perniciem, utinam minus ambitios6, 
quam avide." This could he none hut Foliot. — 
Epist. Ixxv. p. 154. 

Thomas a Bechet. 87 

to tlie eternal diss^race of tlie Cliurela 
thou wilt be arrested and imprisoned 
as a debtor to tbe Crown." The next 
day was Sunday ; tbe Arcbbisliop did 
not leave his lodgings. On Monday 
the agitation of his spirits had brought 
on an attack of a disorder to which he 
was subject : he was permitted to repose. 
On the morrow he had determined on 
his conduct. At one time he had seri- 
ously meditated on a more humiliating 
course : he proposed to seek the royal 
presence barefooted with the cross in 
his hands, to throw himself at the King's 
feet, appealing to his old affection, and 
imploring him to restore peace to the 
Church. What had been the effect of 
such a step on the violent but not un- 
generous heart of Henry? But Becket 
yielded to the haughtier counsels more 
congenial to his own intrepid character. 
He began by the significant act of cele- 
brating, out of its due order, the ser- 

Thomas a Beehet. 

vice of St. Stephen, the first martyr. 
It contained passages of holy writ (as 
no doubt Henry was instantly inform- 
ed) concerning " kings- taking counsel 
against the godly." The mass con- 
cluded; in all the majesty of his holy 
character, in his full pontifical habits, 
himself bearing the archiepiscopal cross, 
the Primate rode to the King's resi- 
Becket in dcncc, and dismounting entered 
hall. the royal hall. The cross seem- 
ed, as it were, an uplifting of the ban- 
ner of the Church, in defiance of that 
of the King, in the royal presence '^^ or 
it might be in that awful imitation of 
the Saviour, at which no scruple was 

"^0 " Tanquam in prcelio Domini, signifer Do- 
mini, yexillum Domini erigens ; illud ^tiam Do- 
mini non solum spiritualiter, sed et figuraliter 
implens. ' Si quis,' inqnit, ' vult mens esse dis- 
cipulus, abneget semet ipsum, toUat crncem 
suam et sequatur me.'" — De Bosham, p. 143. 
Compare the letter of the Bishops to the Pope. 
— Giles, iv. 256 ; Bouquet, 224. 

Thomas a B ec'ket. 89 

ever made by tlie bolder clinrcbmeii — 
it was tlie servant of Christ who him- 
self bore his own cross. " "What means 
this new fashion of the Archbishop 
bearing his own cross ?" said the Arch- 
deacon Lisienx. " A fool," said Fpliot, 
" he always was and always will be." 
They made room for him ; he took his 
accustomed seat in the centre of the 
bishops. Foliot endeavored to per- 
suade him to lay down the cross. '' K 
the sword of the King and the cross of 
the Archbishop were to come in conflict, 
which were the more fearful weapon ? " 
Becket held the cross firmly, which 
Foliot and the Bishop of Hereford 
strove, but in vain, to wrest from his 

The bishops were summoned into the 
King's presence: Becket sat alone in 
the outer hall. The Archbishop of 
York, who, as Becket's partisans assert- 
ed, designedly came later that he might 


90 Thomas a Bechet. 

appear to be of the King's intimate 
council, swept through the hall with his 
cross borne before him. Like hostile 
spears cross confronted cross.'^^ 

During this interval De Bosham, the 
archbishop's reader, who had reminded 
his master that he had been standard- 
bearer of the King of England, and was 
now the standard-bearer of the King of 
the Angels, put this question, '' If they 
should lay their impious hands upon 
thee, art thou prepared to fulminate 
excommunication against them ? " Fitz- 
Stephen, who sat at his feet, said in a 
loud clear voice, "That be far from thee ; 
so did not the Apostles and Martyrs of 
God : they prayed for their persecutors 
and forgave them." Some of his more 

'^1 " Quasi pila minantia pilis," quotes Fitz- 
Stephen; " Memento," said De Bosham, "quon- 
dam te extitisse regis Anglorum signiferum in- 
expugnabilem, nunc vero si signifer regis Ange- 
lorum expugnaris, turpissimum." — ^p. 146. 

Thomas a B eche't. 91 

attached followers burst into tears. " A 
little later," says tlie faithful Fitz- 
Stephen of himself, " when one of the 
King's nshers would not allow me to 
speak to the Archbishop, I made a sign 
to him and drew his attention to the 
Saviour on the cross." 

The bishops admitted to the King's 
presence announced the appeal of the 
Archbishop to the Pope, and his inhi- 
bition to his suffragans to sit in judg- 
ment in a secular council on their 
metropolitan.'^^ These were again, di- 
rect infringements on two of the con- 
stitutions of Clarendon, sworn to by 
Becket in an oath still held valid by the 

■^2 " Dicebant enim episcopi, quod adhuc, ipsa 
die, intra decern dies data9 sententiae, eos ad 
dominnm Papain appellaverat, et ne de cetero 
eum judicarent pro seculari querela, quae de 
tempore ante arcliiprsesulatum ei moveretur, 
auctoriate domini Pap» proMbuit." — Fitz- 
Stephen, p. 230. 

92 Tliomas a Bechet. 

King and Ms barons. The King ap- 
pealed to the connciL Some seized the 
occasion of boldly declaring to the King 
that he had brought this difficulty on 
himself by advancing a low-born man 
condemna- to such favor and di2:nity. All 

tionof ^ , _ , ^ -^ „ 

Becket. agreed that Becket was guilty 
of perjury and treason.'^^ A kind of 
low acclamation followed which was 
heard in the outer room and made 
Becket's followers tremble. The King 
sent certain counts and barons to de- 
mand of Becket whether he, a liegeman 
of the King, and sworn to observe the 
constitutions of Clarendon, had lodged 
this appeal and pronounced this inhibi- 
tion? The Archbishop replied with 
quiet intrepidity. In his long speech 
he did not hesitate for a word ; he plead- 
ed that he had not been cited to ansy^er 
these charges; he alleged again the 
Justiciary's acquittance ; he ended by 
'J'3 Herbert de Bosliam, p. 146. 

Thomas a B eohet. 93 

solemnly renewing liis inliibition and 
Ills appeal : "My person and my Chm-cli 
I place nnder the protection of tlie 
sovereign Pontiff." 

The barons of J^ormandy and Eng- 
land heard with wonder this defiance 
of the King. Some seemed awe-strnck 
and were mnte ; the more fierce and 
lawless conld not restrain their indigna- 
tion. "The Conqueror knew best how 
to deal with these turbulent churchmen. 
He seized his own brother, Odo Bishop 
of Bayeux, and chastised him for his 
rebellion; he threw Stigand, Arch- 
bishop of Canterbmy, into a fetid dun- 
geon. The Count of Anjou, the Eang's 
father, treated still worse the bishop 
elect of Seez and many of his clergy ; 
he ordered them to be shamefully 
mutilated and derided their sufferings." 

The King summoned the bishops, on 
their allegiance as barons, to join in 
sentence as^ainst Becket. But the inhi- 

94: Thomas a Bechet. 

bition of tlieir metropolitan had thrown 
them into embarrassment, and perhaps 
they felt that the offence of Becket, if 
not capital treason, bordered npon it. 
It might be a sentence of blood,' in 
which no churchman might concnr by 
his suffrage — they dreaded the breach 
of canonical obedience. They entered 
the hall where Becket sat alone. The 
gentler prelates, Robert of Lincoln and 
others, were moved to tears; even 
Henry of Winchester advised the arch- 
bishop to make an unconditional sur- 
render of his see. The more vehement 
Hilary of Chichester addressed him 
thus : " Lord Primate, we have just 
cause of complaint against you. Your 
inhibition has placed us between the 
hammer and the anvil : if we disobey 
it, we violate our canonical obedience ; 
if we obey, we infringe the constitutions 
of the realm and offend the King's 
majesty. Yourself were the first to 

Thomas a B ec'ket. 95 

subscribe the customs at Clarendon, 
you now compel us to break them. We 
appeal, by the King's grace, to our lord 
the Pope." Becket answered " I hear." 
They returned to the King, and with 
difficulty obtained an exemption from 
concurrence in the sentence ; they pro- 
mised to join in a supplication to the 
Pope to depose Becket. The King per- 
mitted their appeal. Robert Earl of 
Leicester, a grave and aged nobleman, 
was commissioned to pronounce the 
sentence. Leicester had hardly begun 
when Becket sternly interrupted him. 
"Thy sentence ! son and Earl, hear me 
first ! The King was pleased to pro- 
mote me against my will to the arch- 
bishopric of Canterbury. I was then 
declared free from all secular obliga- 
tions. Ye are my children ; presume 
ye against law and reason to sit in judg- 
ment on your spiritual father ? I am 
to be judged only, under God, by the 

96 Thomas a Beclcet. 

Pope. To him I appeal, before him I 
cite you, barons and my suffragans, to 
appear. Under the protection of the 
Catholic Church and the Apostolic See 
I depart !"^^ He rose and walked 
slowly down the hall. A deep murmur 
ran through the crowd. Some took up 
straws and threw them at him. One 
uttered the word " Traitor ! " The old 
chivalrous spirit woke in the soul of 
Becket. "Were it not for my order, 
you should rue that word." But by 
other accounts he restrained not his 
language to this pardonable impropriety 
— ^he met scorn with scorn. One officer 
of the King's household he upbraided 
for having had a kinsman hanged. 
Anselm, the King's brother, he called 
" bastard and catamite." The door was 

'^4 De Bosham's account is, that notwithstand- 
ing the first interruption, Leicester reluctantly 
proceeded till he came to the word "perjured," 
on which Becket rose and spoke. 

Thomas a B ec'ket . 97 

locked, but fortunately tlie key was 
found. He passed out into the street, 
where he was received by tlie populace, 
to whom he had endeared himself by 
his charities, his austerities, perhaps by 
his courageous opposition to the king 
and the nobles, amid loud acclamations. 
They pressed so closely around him for 
his blessing that he could scarcely guide 
his horse. He returned to the church 
of St. Andrew, placed his cross by the 
altar of the Yirgin. " This was a fear- 
ful day," said Fitz-Stephen. " The day 
of judgment," he replied, " will be more 
fearful." After supper he sent the 
Bishops of Hereford, Worcester, and 
Rochester to the King to request per- 
mission to leave the kingdom : the King 
coldly deferred his answer till the 

Becket and his friends no doubt 
thought his life in danger : he is said 
to have received some alarming warn- 

98 Thomas a Bechet. 

ings.'^^ It is reported, on the other 
hand, that the King, apprehensive of 
the fierce zeal of his followers, issned a 
proclamation that no one should do 
harm to the archbishop or his people. 
It is more likely that the King, who 
mnst have known the peril of attempt- 
ing the life of an archbishop, would 
have apprehended and committed him 
to prison. Becket expressed his inten- 
tion to pass the night in the church : 
his bed was strewn before the altar. 
Flight of At midni2:ht he rose, and with 

Becket. ' o •' 

Oct. 13. only two monks and a servant 
stole out of the northern gate, the only 
one which was not guarded. He carried 
with him only his archiepiscopal pall 
and his seal. The weather was wet and 
stormy, but the next morning they 
reached Lincoln, and lodged with a 
pious citizen — piety and admiration of 
Becket were the same thing. At Lin- 
TSPeBosham, p. 150. 

Thomas a B ecJcet. 99 

coin lie took the disguise of a monk, 
dropped down the Witliam to a hermit- 
age in the fens belonging to the Cister- 
cians of Sempringham; thence by cross- 
roads, and chiefly by night, he found 
his way to Estrey, about five miles from 
Deal, a manor belonging to Christ 
Church in Canterbury. He remained 
there a week. On All Souls Day he 
went on board a boat, just before morn- 
ing, and by the evening reached the 
coast of Flanders. To avoid observa- 
tion he landed on the open shore near 
Gravelines. His large, loose shoes made 
it difficult to wade through the sand 
without falling. He sat down in des- 
pair. After some delay was obtained 
for a prelate, accustomed to the pranc- 
ing war-horse or stately cavalcade, a 
sorry nag without a saddle, and with a 
wisp of hay for a bridle. But he soon 
got weary and was fain to walk. He 
had many adventures by the way. He 

100 Thomas a Bechet. 

was once nearly betrayed by gazing 
with delight on a falcon upon a young 
squire's wrist : his fright punished him 
for his relapse into his secnlar vanities. 
The host of a small inn recognized him 
by his lofty look and the whiteness of 
his hands. At length he arrived at the 
monastery of Clair Marais, near St. 
Omer : he was there joined by Herbert 
de Bosham, who had been left behind 
to collect what money he could at Can- 
terbury; he brought but 100 marks 
and some plate. While he was in this- 
part of Flanders the Justiciary, Richard 
de Luci, passed through the town on his 
way to England. He tried in vain to 
persuade the archbishop to return with 
him : Becket suspected his friendly 
overtures, or had resolutely determined 
not to put himself again in the King's 

In the first access of indignation at 
Becket's flight the King had sent orders 

Thomas a Bec'ket. 101 

for strict watcli to be kept in tlie ports 
of the kingdom, especially Dover. The 
next measure was to pre-occnpj the 
minds of the Count of Flanders, the 
King of France, and the Pope against 
his fugitive subject. Henry could not 
but foresee how formidable an ally the 
exile might become to his rivals and 
enemies, how dangerous to his extensive 
but ill-consolidated foreign dominions. 
He might know that Becket would act 
and be received as an independent po- 
tentate. The rank of his ambassadors 
implied the importance of their mission 
to France. They were the Archbishop 
of York, the Bishops of London, Exeter, 
Chichester, and Worcester, the Earl of 
Arundel, and three other distinguished 
nobles. The same day that Becket 
passed to Gravelines, they crossed from 
Dover to Calais.'^^ 

'^6 Foliot and the King's envoys crossed the 
same day. It is rather amusing that, though 

102 Thomas d Bechet. 

The Earl of Flanders, tlioiigh. with 
Becket some cause of hostility to Beck- 
in exile, g^^ 1^^^ offered him a refuge ; yet 
perhaps was not distinctly informed or 
would not know that the exile was in 
his dominions.'^^ He received the King's 
envoys with civilitj^. The King of 
France was at Compiegne. The 
strongest passions in the feeble mind of 
Louis yil. were jealousy of Henry of 

Becket crossed the same daj in an open boat, 
and, as is incautiously betrayed by his friends, 
Buffered much from the rough sea, the weather 
is described as in his case almost miraculously 
favorable, in the other as miraculously tempes- 
tuous. So that while Becket calmly glided over, 
Foliot in despair of his life threw off his cowl 
and cope. 

'^'f Compare, however, Pwoger of Pontigny. 
By his account, the Count of Flanders, a rela- 
tive and partisan of Henry (" consanguineus et 
qui partes ejus fovebat ") would have arrested 
him. He escaped over the border by a trick. — 
Koger de Pontigny, p. 148. 

Thomas a Bechet. 103 

England, and a servile bigotry to tlie 
Chnrcli, to wliicli he seemed determined 
to compensate for tlie liostility and dis- 
obedience of his yonth. Against Hen- 
ry, personally, there were old causes of 
hatred rankling in his heart, not the 
less deep because they cQuld not be 
avowed. Henry of England was now 
the husltand of Eleanor, who, after some 
years of marriage, had contemptuously 
divorced the King of France as a monk 
rather than as a husband, had ^^^^ ^-^^.^ 
thrown herself into the arms of *^ ^^^^• 
Henry and carried with her a dowry 
as large as half the kingdom of France. 
There had since been years either of 
fierce war, treacherous negotiations, or 
jealous and armed peace, between the 
rival sovereigns. 

Louis had watched, and received 
regular accounts of the proceedings in 
England ; his admiration of Becket for 
his lofty churchmanship and daring 

104 TTioWjas a Bechet. 

opposition to Henry was at its height, 
scarcely disguised. He had already in 
secret offered to receive Becket, not as 
a fugitive, but as the sharer in his king- 
dom. The ambassadors appeared before 
Louis and presented a letter urging the 
King of France not to admit within his 
dominions the traitor Thomas, late 
Archbishop of Canterbury. « " Late 
Louis of Archbishop ! and who has pre- 
France. g^j^g^]^ ^q dcpose liim ? I am a 

king, like my brother of England; I 
should not dare to depose the meanest 
of my clergy. Is this the King's grati- 
tude for the services of his Chancellor, 
to banish him from France, as he has 
done from England ?"^^ Louis wrote a 
strong letter to the Pope, recommend- 
ing to his favor the cause of Becket as 
his own. 

Ambassadors The ambassadors passed on- 
at Sens. ^ards to Scus, where resided 
'^8 Giles, iv. 253 ; Bouquet, p. 217. 

Thomas a BecTcet. 105 

the Pope Alexander III., himself an ex- 
ile, and opposing his spiritual power to 
the highest temporal authority, that of 
the Emperor and his subservient Anti- 
pope. Alexander was in a position of 
extraordinary difficnlty : on the one side 
were gratitude to King Henry for his 
firm support, and the fear of estranging 
so powerful a sovereign, on whose un- 
rivaled wealth he reckoned as the main 
strength of his cause ; on the other, the 
dread of offending the King of France, 
also his faithful partisan, in whose do- 
minions he was a refugee, and the duty, 
the interest, the strong inclination to 
maintain every privilege of the hierar- 
chy. To Henry Alexander almost owed 
his pontificate. His first and most faith- 
ful adherents had been Theobald the 
primate, the English Church, and Hen- 
ry King of England; and when the 
weak Louis had entered into dangerous 
negotiations at Lannes with the Em- 

106 Thomas a Bechet. 

peror; when at Dijon he had almost 
placed himself in the power of Freder- 
ick, and his volmitary or enforced de- 
fection had filled Alexander with dread, 
the advance of Henry of England with 
a powerful force to the neighborhood 
rescued the French king from his peril- 
ous position. And now, though Victor 
the Antipope was dead, a successor, 
Guido of Crema, had been set up by 
the imperial party, and Frederick would 
lose no opportunity of gaining, if any 
serious quarrel should alienate him from 
Alexander, a monarch of such surpass- 
ing power. An envoy from England, 
John Cummin, was even now at the 
imperial court.''^ 

Becket's messengers, before the re- 
ception of Henry's ambassadors by Pope 
Alexander, had been admitted to a pri- 
vate interview. The account of Beck- 

"^9 Epist. Nuntii; Giles, iv. 254; Bouquet, 

p. 2ir. 

Thomas a Bechet. 107 

et's " figlit with beasts " at N'orthamp- 
ton, and a skillful parallel with St. Paul, 
had melted the heart of the Pontiff, as 
he no doubt thought himself suffering 
like persecutions, to a flood of tears. 
How in truth could a Pope venture to 
abandon such a champion of what 
were called the liberties of the Church ? 
He had, in fact, throughout been in 
secret correspondence with Becket. 
"Whenever letters could escape the 
jealous watchfulness of the I^ng, 
they had passed between England and 

80 Becket writes from England to the Pope : 
" Quod petimus, summo silentio petimus occul- 
tari. Nihil enim nobis tutum est, quum omnia 
fere referuntur ad regem, quae nobis in conclavi 
vel in aurem dicuntur." There is a significant 
clause at the end of this letter, which implies 
that the emissaries of the Church did not con- 
fine themselves to Church affairs : " De Wallen- 
sibus et Oweno, qui se principem nominat, pro- 
videatis, quia Dominus Eex super hoc maxime 

108 TTiomas d JBechet. 

Tlie ambassadors of Hemy were re- 
The King's ccived ill state in the open 

ambassadors . -i-i n r> t 

at Sens. consistorj. Foliot of London 
began with his usual ability ; his warmth 
at length betrayed him into the Scrip- 
tural citation, — " The wicked fleeth 
wheii no man pursueth." " Forbear," 
said the Pope. " I w^ill forbear him," 
answered Foliot. " It is for thine own 
sake, not for his, that I bid thee for- 
bear." The Pope's severe manner 
silenced the Bishop of London. Hilary, 
Bishop of Chichester, who had over- 
weening confidence in his eloquence, 
began a long harangue ; but at a fatal 
blunder in his Latin, the whole Italian 
court burst into laughter.^^ The dis- 
comfited orator tried in vain to proceed. 

motus est et indignatus." The Welsh were in 
arms against the King: this borders on high 
treason. — Apud Giles, iii. 1. Bouquet, 221. 

81 The word "oportuebat" was too bad for 
monkish, or rather for Koman, ears. 

Thomas a Beclcet. 109 

The Arclibisliop of York spoke with 
prudent brevity. The Count of Arun- 
del, more cautious or less learned, used 
his native IS'orman. His speech was 
mild, grave, and conciliatory, and there- 
fore the most embarrassing to the Pon- 
tiff. Alexander consented to send his 
cardinal legates to England; but nei- 
ther the arguments of Foliot, nor those 
of Arundel, who now rose to something 
like a menace of recourse to the Anti- 
pope, would induce him to invest them 
with full power. The Pope would 
entrust to none but to himself the pre- 
rogative of final judgment. Alexander 
mistrusted the venality of his cardinals, 
and Henry's subsequent dealing with 
some of them justified his mistrust.^^ 
He was himself inflexible to tempting 

82 According to Koger of Pontigny, there 
were some of them " qui accepta a rege pecmiia 
partes ejns fovebant," particularly William of 
Pavia. — p. 153. 

110 Thomas d BecJcet. 

offers. The envoys privately proposed 
to extend the payment of Peter's Pence 
to almost all classes, and to secure the 
tax in perpetuity to the see of Rome. 
The ambassadors retreated in haste; 
their commission had been limited to a 
few days. The bishops, so strong was 
the popular feeling in Prance for Beck- 
et, had entered Sens as retainers for the 
Earl of Arundel : they received intima- 
tion that certain lawless knights in the 
neighborhood had determined to way- 
lay and plunder these enemies of the 
Church, and of the saintly Becket. 

Far different was the progress of the 
exiled primate. From St. Bertin he 
was escorted by the Abbot, and by the 
Bishop of Terouenne. He entered 
France ; he was met, as he approached 
Soissons, by the King's brothers, the 
Archbishop of Rheims, and a long train 
Becket ^^ bishops, abbots, and dignita- 
atsens. ^.^^g ^£ ^^^ Church ; he entered 

Thomas a B ecJcet. Ill 

Soissons at the head of three hundred 
horsemen. The interview of Louis 
with Becket raised his admiration in- 
to passion. As the envoys of Henry 
passed on one side of the river, they 
saw the pomp in which the ally of 
the King of France, rather than the 
exile from England, was approaching 
Sens. The cardinals, whether from 
prudence, jealousy, or other motives, 
were cool in their reception of Beck- 
et. The Pope at once granted the 
honor of a public audience ; he placed 
Becket on his right hand, and would 
not allow him to rise to speak. Beck- 
et, after a skillful account of his hard 
usage, spread out the parchment which 
contained the Constitutions of Claren- 
don. -They were read ; the whole Con- 
sistory exclaimed against the violation 
of ecclesiastical privileges. On further 
examination the Pope acknowledged 
that six of them were less evil than the 

112 T/iomas d Becket. 

rest; on tlie remaining ten lie pro- 
nounced his unqualified condemnation. 
He rebuked the weakness of Becket in 
swearing to these articles, it is said, 
with the severity of a father, the ten- 
derness of a mother.^^ He consoled him 
with the assurance that he had atoned 
by his sufferings and his patience for 
his brief infirmity. Becket pursued his 
advantage. The next day, by what 
might seem to some trustful magnani-. 
mity, to others, a skillful mode of get- 
ting rid of certain objections which had 
been raised concerning his election, he 
tendered the resignation of his archie- 
piscopate to the Poj)e. Some of the 
more politic, it was said, more venal 
cardinals, entreated the Pontiff to put 
an end at once to this dangerous quar- 
rel by accepting the surrender. ^^ But 
the Pontff (his own judgment being 

83 Herbert de Bosham. 

84 Alani Yita (p. 362) ; and Alan's Life rests 

Thomas a Beclcet. 113 

suj)ported among others by the Cardi- 
nal Plyacinth) restored to him the archi- 
episcopal ring, thus ratifying his pri- 
macy. He assured Becket of his pro- 
tection, and committed him to the hos- 
pitable care of the Abbot of Pontigny, 
a monastery about twelve leagues from 
Sens. " So long have you lived in ease 
and opulence, now learn the lessons of 
poverty from the poor."^ Yet Alex- 
ander thought it prudent to inhibit any 
proceedings of Becket against the King 
till the following Easter. 

Becket's emissaries had been present 
during the interview of Henry's embas- 

mainlj on the authority of John of Salisburj, 
Herbert de Bosham suppresses this. 

85 The Abbot of Pontigny was an ardent ad- 
mirer of Becket. See letter of the Bishop of 
Poitiers, Bouquet, p. 214. Prayers were offer- 
ed up throughout the struggle with Henry for 
Becket's success at Pontigny, Citeaux, and Olair- 
vaux. — Giles, iv. 255. 

114: Thomas a Bechet, 

sadors witli tlie Pope. Henry, no doubt, 
received speedy intelligence of these 
proceedings with. Becket. He was at 
Marlborough after a disastrous cam- 
Effect on paig^ in Wales.^^ He issued 
King Henry, immediate orders to seize the 
revenues of the Archbishop, and pro- 
mulgated a mandate to the bishops to 
sequester the estates of all the clergy 
Wrath of ^^^ ^^^ followed him to France. 
Henry, jj^ forbadc pubHc prayers for the 
Primate. In the exasperated state, 
especially of the monkish mind, prayers 
for Becket would easily slide into ana- 
themas against the king. The payment 
of Peter's Pence ^^ to the Pope was 

86 Compare Lingard. Becket on this news 
exclaimed, as is said, " His wise men are become 
fools ; the Lord hath sent among them a spirit 
of giddiness ; they have made England to reel 
to and fro like a drunken man." — Vol. iii. p. 
227. N'o doubt, he would have it supposed 
God's vengeance for his own wrongs. 

is There are in Eoliot's letters many curious 

Thomas d BecTcet. 115 

suspended. All correspondence with 
Becket was forbidden. But tlie resent- 
ment of Henrj was not satisfied. He 
passed a sentence of banishment, and 
ordered at once to be driven from the 
kingdom all the primate's kinsmen, 
dependents, and friends. Fonr hundred 
persons, it is said, of both sexes, of every 
age, even infants at the breast were in- 
cluded (and it was the depth of winter) 
in this relentless edict. Every adult 
was to take an oath to proceed imme- 

circnmstances about the collection and trans- 
mission of Peter's Pence. In Alexander's pre- 
sent state, notwithstanding the amitj of the 
King of France, this source of revenue was no 
doubt important. — ^Epist. 149, 172, &c. Alex- 
ander wrote from Clermont to Foliot (June 8, 
1165) to collect the tax, to do all in his power 
for the recall of Becket : to Henr j, reprobat- 
ing the Constitutions; to Becket, urging pru- 
dence and circumspection. This was later. 
The Pope was then on his way to Italy, where 
he might need Henry's gold. 

116 Thomas a Bechet. 

diately to Becket, in order that liis eyes 
might be shocked, and his heart wrung 
by the miseries which he had bronght 
on his family and his friends. This order 
was as inhumanly executed, as inhu- 
manly enacted.^^ It was intrusted to 
Randulph de Broc, a fierce soldier, the 
bitterest of Becket's personal enemies. 
It was as impolitic as cruel. The 
monasteries and convents of Flanders 
and of France were thrown open to 
the exiles with generous hospitality. 
Throughout both these countries was 
spread a multitude of persons appealing 
to the pity, to the indignation of all 
orders of the people, and so deepening 
the universal hatred of Henry. The 
enemy of the Church was self-convicted 
of equal enmity to all Christianity of 

In his seclusion at Pontigny Becket 
seemed determined to compensate by 

88 Becket, Epist. 4, p. T. 

Thomas d BecJcet. 117 

tlie sternest monastic discipline ^^^^^^^ ^^ 
for that deficiency which had ^ontignj. 
been alleged on his election to the arch- 
bishopric. He put on the coarse Cis- 
tercian dress. He lived on the hard 
and scanty Cistercian diet. Outwardly 
he still maintained something of his old 
magnificence and the splendor of his 
station. His establishment of horses 
and retainers was so costly, that his 
sober friend, John of Salisbury, remon- 
strated against the profuse expenditure. 
Richer viands were indeed served on a 
table apart, ostensibly for Becket ; but 
while he himself was content with the 
pulse and gruel of the monks, those 
meats and game were given away to the 
beggars. His devotions were long and 
secret, broken with perpetual groans. 
At night he rose from the bed strewn 
with rich coverings, as beseeming an 
archbishop, and summoned his chap- 
lain to the work of flagellation. I^Tot 

118 Thomas a BecJcet, 

satisiied with tliis, he tore his flesh with 
his nails, and lay on the cold floor, with 
a stone for his pillow. His health suf- 
fered ; wild dreams, so reports one of 
his attendants, haunted his broken 
slumbers, of cardinals plucking out his 
eyes, fierce assassins cleaving his ton- 
sured crown,^^ His studies were neither 
suited to calm his mind, nor to abase 
his hierarchical haughtiness. He de- 
voted his time to the canon law, of 
which the False Decretals now formed 
an integral part ; sacerdotal fraud justi- 
fying the loftiest sacerdotal presump- 
tion. John of Salisbury again inter- 
posed with friendly remonstrance. He 
urged him to withdraw from these un- 
devotional inquiries ; he recommended 
to him the works of a Pope of a difl'er- 
ent character, the Morals of Gregory 
the Great. He exhorted him to confer 

89 Edw. Grim. 

Thomas d BecJcet. 119 

with lioly men on books of spiritual 

King Henry in tlie meantime took a 
loftier and more menacing tone towards 
tlie Pope. "It is an nnlieard Negotiations 
of tiling that the conrt of Rome Emperor. 
should support traitors against mj 
sovereign authority ; I have not deserv- 
ed such treatment.^^ I am still more 
indignant that the justice is denied to 
me which is granted to the meanest 
clerk." In his wrath he made over- 
tures to Eeginald, Archbishop of 
Cologne, the maker, he might \)Q called, 
of two Antipopes, and the minister of 
the Emperor, declaring that he had 
long sought an opportunity of falling 
off from Alexander, and his perfidious 
cardinals, who presumed to support 
against him the traitor Thomas, late 
Archbishop of Canterbury. 


Bouquet, xvi. 256. 

120 Thomas d Bec'ket. 

The Emperor met the advances of 
Hemy with promptitude, which showed 
the importance he attached to the alli- 
ance. Reginald of Cologne was sent to 
England to propose a double alliance 
with the house of Swabia, of Frederick's 
son, and of Henry the Lion, with the 
two daughters of Henry Plantagenet. 
The Pope trembled at this threatened 
union between the houses of Swabia 
and England. At the great diet held 
Diet at ^^ Wurtzburg, Frederick, as- 
To'^liSf' serted the canonical election 
Whitsuntide. ^^ Paschal HI., the new Anti- 
pope, and declared in the face of the 
empire and of all Christendom, that the 
powerful kingdom of England had now 
embraced his cause, and that the King 
of France stood alone in his support of 
Alexander. ^^ In his public edict he 

91 The letters of Jolin of Salisbnry are fall of 
allusions to the proceedings at Wurtzburg. — 

T komas d Bec'ket. 121 

declared to all Christendom tliat the 
oath of fidelity to Paschal, of denial of 
all future allegiance to Alexander, ad- 
ministered to all the great princes and 
prelates of the empire, had been taken 
by the ambassadors of King Henry, 
Richard of Ilchester, and John of Ox- 
ford.^2 ]S"or was this all. A solemn 

Bouquet, p. 524. John of Oxford is said to 
have denied the oath (p. 533) ; also Giles, iv. 
264. He is from that time branded by John of 
Salisbury as an arch liar. 

92 John of Oxford was rewarded for this ser- 
vice by the deanery of Salisbury, vacant by the 
promotion of the dean to the bishopric of Bay- 
eux. Joscelin, Bishop of Salisbury, notwith- 
standing the papal prohibition that no election 
should take place in the absence of some of the 
canons, chose the safer course of obedience to 
the King's mandate. This act of Joscelin was 
deeply resented by Becket. John of Oxford's 
usurpation of the deanery was one of the causes 
assigned for his excommunication at Yezelay. 
See also, on the loyal but somewhat unscrupu- 
lous proceedings of John of Oxford, the letter 

122 T ho in as d Becket. 

oatli of abjuration of Pope Alexander 
was enacted, and to some extent enforc- 
ed ; it was to be taken by every male 
under twelve years old tlirougliont the 
realm.^^ The King's officers compelled 

(hereafter referred to) of Nicholas de Monte 
Eotomagensi. It describes the attempt of John 
of Oxford to prepossess the Empress Matilda 
against Becket. It likewise betrays again the 
double-dealing of the Bishop of Lisieux, out- 
wardly for the King, secretly a partisan arid 
adviser of Becket. On the whole, it shows the 
moderation and good sense of the empress, who 
disapproved of some of the Constitutions, and 
especially of their being written, but speaks 
strongly of the abuses in the Church. ISTicholas 
admires her skillfulness in defending her son.— 
Giles, iv. 187. Bouquet, 226. 

93 "Prsecepit enim publice et compulit per 
vicos, per castella, per civitates ab homine sene 
usque ab puerum duodenum beati Petri succes- 
sorem Alexandrum abjurare." 'William of Can 
terbury alone of Becket's biographers (Giles, ii. 
p. 19) asserts this, but it is unanswerably con- 
firmed by Becket's Letter 78, iii. p. 192. 

Thomas a Bechet. 123 

this act of obedience to the King, in 
villages, in castles, in cities. 

If the ambassadors of Henry at 
Wurtzbnrg had full powers to transfer 
the allegiance of the King to the Anti- 
]3ope ; if they took the oath nncondition- 
allj, and with no reserve in case Alex- 
ander should abandon the cause of 
Becket ; if this oath of abjuration in 
England w^as generally administered ; 
it is clear that Henry soon changed, or 
wavered at least in his policy. The 
alliance, between the two houses came 
to nothing. Yet even after this he ad- 
dressed another letter to Keginald, 
Archbishop of Cologne, declaring again 
his long cherished determination to 
abandon the cause of Alexander, the 
supporter of his enemy, the Archbishop 
of Canterbury. He demanded safe- 
conduct for an embassy to Rome, the 
Archbishoj) of York, the Bishop of Lon- 
don, John of Oxford, De Luci, the Jus- 

124: Thomas d JBecJcet. 

ticiary, peremptorily to require the 
Pope to annul all the acts of Thomas, 
and to command the observance of the 
Customs.^^ The success of Alexander in 
Italy, aversion in England to the abjur- 
ation of Alexander, some unaccounted 
jealousy with the Emperor, irresolution 
in Henry, which was part of his impet- 
uous character, may have wrought this 

The monk and severe student of Pon- 
tigny found rest neither in his austeri- 
ties nor his studies.^^ The causes of this 

94 The letter in Giles (vi. 279) is rather per- 
plexing. It is placed by Bouquet, agreeing with 
Baronius, in 1166 ; by Yon Eaumer (Geschichte 
der Hohenstauffen, ii. p. 192) in 1165, before 
the Diet of "Wurtzburg. This cannot be right, 
as the letter implies that Alexander was in 
Eome, where he arrived not before Nov. 1165. 
The embassy, though it seems that the Emperor 
granted the safe-conduct, did not take place, at 
least as regards some of the ambassadors. 

95 " Itaque per biennium ferme stetit." So 

Thomas d Bechet. 125 

enforced repose are manifest — ^the nego- 
tiations betAveen Henry and the Empe- 
ror, the uncertainty of the success of 
the Pope on his return to Italy. It 
would have been j)erilous policy, either 
for him to risk, or for the Pope not to 
inhibit any rash measure. 

In the second year of his seclusion, 
when he found that the King's heart 
was still hardened, the fire, not, we are 
assured by his followers, of resentment, 
but of parental love, not zeal for ven- 
geance but for justice, burned within 
his soul. Henry was at this Becket cites 
time in France. Three times *^' ^mg^--^ 
the exile cited his sovereign with the 
tone of a superior to submit to his cen- 
sure. Becket had communicated his 
design to his followers : — " Let us act 
as the Lord commanded his steward :^^ 

writes Eoger of Pontigny. It is difficult to 
make out so long a time.— p. 154. 
96 Herbert de Bosham.— p. 226. 

326 Thomas d B echet . 

' See, I have set tliee over the nations, 
and over the kingdoms, to root out and 
to pull down, and to destroy, and to 
hew down, to bnild and to plant.' "^^ 
All his hearers applauded his righteous 
resolution. In the first message the 
haughty meaning was veiled in the 
blandest words,^^ and sent by a Cister- 
cian of gentle demeanor, named Ur- 
ban.^^ The King returned a short and 
bitter answer. The second time Becket 
wrote in severer language, but yet in 
the spirit, 'tis said, of compassion and 
leniency.^^*^ The King deigned no reply. 
His third messenger was a tattered, 
barefoot friar. To him Becket, it might 
seem, with studied insult, not only in- 

97 Jer. i. 10. 

98 " Suavissimas literas, snpplicationem solam, 
correptionem vero nullam vel modicam conti- 
nentes." — De Bosham. 

99 Urbane by disposition as by name. — ^Ibid. 

100 Giles, iii. 365. Bouquet, p. 243. 

Thomas a BecTcet. 127 

trusted his letter to tlie King, but au- 
thorized the friar to speak in his name. 
With such a messenger the message 
was not likelj to lose in asperity. The 
King returned an answer even more 
contemptuous than the address.^ 

But this secret arraignment of the 
King did not content the unquiet pre- 
late. He could now dare Nov. ii, iies. 
more, unrestrained, unrebuked. Pope 
Alexander had been received at Rome 
with open arms : at the commencement 
of the present year all seemed to favor 
his cause. The Emperor, detained by 
wars in Germany, was not prepared to 
cross the Alps. In the free cities of 
Italy, the anti-imperialist feeling, and 
the growing republicanism, gladly en- 
tered into close confederacy with a Pope 
at war with the Emperor. The Pontiff 

1 " Quin potius dura propinantes, dura pro 
duris, immo multo plus duriora prioribus, repor- 
taverunt." — De Bosham, 

128 Thomas d BecTcet. 

(secretly it sliould seem, it miglit be 
in defiance or in revenge for Henry's 
threatened revolt and for the acts of his 
ambassadors at Wurtzburg^) ventured 
to grant to Becket a legatine power 
over the King's English dominions, 
except the province of York. Though 
it was not in the power of Becket to 
enter those dominions, it armed him, 
as it was thought, with unquestion- 

2 The Pope had written (Jan. 28) to the 
bishops of England not to presume to act with- 
out the consent of Thomas, Archbishop of Can- 
terbury. April 5, he forbade Roger of York 
and the other prelates to crown the King's son. 
May 3, he writes to Foliot and the bishops who 
had received benefices of the King to surren- 
der them under pain of anathema ; to Becket in 
favor of Joscelin, Bishop of Salisbury : he had 
annulled the grant of the deanery of Salisbury 
to John of Oxford. May 10, to the Archbishop 
of Rouen, denouncing the dealings of Henry 
with the Emperor and the Antipope. — Giles, iv. 
10 a 80. Bouquet, 246. 

Thomas a Bechet, ■ 129 

able aiitliority over Hemy and his 
subjects. At all events it annulled 
whatever restraint the Pope, bj coun- 
sel or bj mandate, had placed on the 
proceedings of Becket.^ The Arch- 
bishop took his determination alone.* 
As though to throw an awful mystery 
about his plan, he called his wise friends 
together, and consulted them on the 
propriety of resigning his see. "With 

3 The inMbition given at Sens to proceed 
against the King, before the Easter of the follow- 
ing year (a. d. 1166), had now expired. More- 
over he had a direct commission to proceed by 
Commination against those who forcibly with- 
held the property of the see of Canterbury. — 
Apnd Giles, iv. 8. Bouquet, xvi. 844. At the 
same time the Pope urged great discretion as to 
the King's person. Giles, iv. 12. Bouquet, 244. 

4 At the same time Becket wrote to Foliot 
of London, commanding him under penalty of 
excommunication to transmit to him the se- 
questered revenues of Canterbury in his hands. 
— Foliot appealed to the Pope. — Foliot's Letter. 
Giles, vi. 5. Bouquet, 215. 

leSO Thomas a Becket. 

one voice tliey rejected the timid coun- 
sel. Yet though his most intimate fol- 
lowers were in ignorance of his designs, 
some intelligence of a meditated blow 
was betrayed to Henry. The King 
summoned an assembly of prelates at 
Chinon. The Bishops of Lisieux and 
Seez, whom the Archbishop of Eouen, 
Kotran, consented to accompany as a 
mediator, were dispatched to Pontigny, 
to anticipate by an appeal to the Pope, 
anysentence which might be pronounced 
by Becket. They did not find him there : 
he had already gone to Soissons, on the 
pretext of a pilgrimage to the shrine 
of St. Drausus, a saint whose interces- 
sion rendered the warrior invincible in 
battle. Did Becket hope thus to secure 
victory in the great spiritual combat ? 
One whole night he passed before the 
shrine of St. Drausus: another before 
that of Gregory the Great, the founder 
of the English Church, and of the see 

Thomas d BecJcet. 131 

of Canterbury; and a tliird before tliat 
of the Yirgin, his especial j^atroness. 

From thence he proceeded to the an- 
cient and famons monastery of Yeze- 
lay.^ The church of Yezelay, if jje^ket at 
the dismal decorations of the ^^^^^^y- 
architecture are (which is doubtful) 
of that period, might seem designated 

5 The curious History of tlie Monastery of Veze- 
lay, by Hugh of Poitiers (translated in Guizot, 
Collection des Memoires), though it twice men- 
tions Becket, stops just short of this excommu- 
nication, 1166. Yezelay boasted to be subject 
only to the See of Rome, to have been made by 
its founder part of the patrimony of St. Peter. 
This was one great distinction : the other was 
the unquestioned possession of the body of St. 
Mary Magdalene, "I'amie de Dieu." Yezelay 
had been in constant strife with the Bishop of 
Autim for its ecclesiastical, with the Count of 
Nevers for its territorial, independence; with 
the monastery of Clugny, as its rival. This is 
a document very instructive as to the life of the 

132 Thomas a Beclcet. 

for tliat fearful ceremony.^ There, on 

6 A modern traveller thus writes of the 
church of Yezelay : " On voit par le choix des 
sujets qui ont un sens, quel etait I'esprit du 
temps et la maniere d'interpreter la religion. 
Oe n'etait pas par la douceur ou la persuasion 
qu'on voulait convertir, mais bien par la terreur. 
Les discours des pretres pourraient se resumer 
en ce peu de mots : ' Croyez, ou sinon vous pe- 
rissez miserablement, et vous serez eternellement 
tourmentes dans Tantre monde!' De leur cote 
les artistes, gens religieux, ecclesiastiques m^me 
pour la plupart, donnaient une forme reelle aux 
sombres images que leur inspirait un zele fa- 
rouche. Je ne trouve ^. Yezelay aucun de ces 
sujets que les ames tendres aimeraient eL retracer, 
tels que le pardon accorde au repentir, la re- 
compense du juste, &c.; mais au contraire, je 
vois Samuel egorgeant Agag ; des diables ecar- 
telent des damnes, ou les entrainant dans I'abime; 
puis des animaux horribles, des monstres hideux, 
des tetes grimacantes exprimant ou les suffrances 
des reprouves, ou la joie des habitans de I'enfer. 
Qu'on se represente la devotion des hommes 
eleves au milieu de ces images, et I'on s'etonnera 
moins des massacres des Albigeois." — ^Notesd'un 

Thomas a Bechet. 133 

the feast of the Ascension,'^ when the 
church was crowded with, worshipers 
from all quarters, he ascended the pnl- 
pit, and with the utmost solemnity, con- 
demned and annulled the Constitutions 
of Clarendon, declared excommunicate 
all who observed or enforced their ob- 
servance, all who had counseled, and 
all who had defended them ; absolved 
all the bishops from the oaths which 
they had taken to maintain them. Tliis 
sweeping anathema involved the whole 

Voyage dans le Midi de la France, par Prosper 
Merimee, p. 43. 

'f Diceto gives the date Ascension Daj, Her- 
bert de Bosham St. Mary Magdalene's Day 
(July 22d). It should seem that De Bosham's 
memory failed him. See the letter of Mcolas 
de M. Rotomagensi, who speaks of the excom- 
munication as past, and that Becket was ex- 
pected to excommunicate the King on St. Mary 
Magdalene's Day. This, if done at Yezelay (as 
it were, over the body of the Saint, on her sa- 
cred day), had been tenfold more awful. 

134 Thomas d ^ecJcet. 

kingdom. But lie proceeded to excom- 
municate by name the most active and 
powerful adversaries : John of Oxford, 
for his dealings with the schismatic 
partisans of the Emperor and of the 
Antipope, and for his usurpation of the 
deanery of Salisbury; Eichard of II- 
chester Archdeacon of Poitiers, the col- 
league of John in his negotiations at 
Wurtzburg (thus the cause of Bechet 
and Pope Alexander were indissolubly 
welded together) ; the great Justiciary, 
Richard de Luci, and John of Baliol, the 
authors of the Constitutions of Claren- 
don ; Eandulph de Broc, Hugo de Clare, 
and others, for their forcible usurpation 
of the estates of the see of Canterbury. 
He yet in his mercy spared the King 
(he had received intelligence that Henry 
was dangerously ill), and in a lower 
tone, his voice, as it seemed, half choked 
with tears, he uttered his Commination. 
The whole congregation, even his own 

Thomas d Beolcet. 135 

intimate followers, were silent with 

This sentence of excommunication 
Becket annoimced to the Pope, and to 
all the clergy of England. To the latter 
he said, " Who presumes to doubt that 
the priests of God are the fathers and 
masters of kings, princes, and all the 
faithful?" He commanded Gilbert, 
Bishoj) of London, and his other suffra- 
gans, to publish this edict throughout 
their dioceses. He did not confine him- 
self to the bishops of England ; the I^or- 
man prelates, the Archbishop of Eouen, 
were expressly warned to withdraw from 
all communion with the excommuni- 

8 See the curious letter of Nicolas de Monte 
Eotomagensi, Giles iv., Bouquet, 250. This 
measure of Becket was imputed bj the Arch- 
bishop of Eheims to pride or anger ("extollen- 
tise aut irse ") : it made an unfavorable impres- 
sion on the Empress Matilda. — Ibid. 

136 Thomas a Beelcet. 

The wratli of Henry drove liim almost 
Anger of ^^ iiiadiiess. ITo one dared to 
the King. j^^j^Q Becket ill his presence.® 
Soon after, on the occasion of some dis- 
cussion abont the King of Scotland, he 
bnrst into a fit of passion, threw away 
his cap, nngirt his belt, stripped off his 
clothes, tore the silken coverlid from 
his bed, and crouched down on the 
straw, gnawing bits of it with his 
teeth.^^ Proclamation was issued to 
guard the ports of England against the 
threatened interdict. Any one who 
should be apprehended as the bearer 
of such an instrument, if a regular, was 
to lose his feet ; if a clerk, his eyes, and 
suffer more shameful mutilation ; a lay- 
man was to be hanged ; a leper to be 
burned. A bishop who left the king- 
dom, for fear of the interdict, was to 
carry nothing with him but his staff. 

9 Epist. Giles, iv. 185 ; Bouquet, 258. 

10 Epist. Giles, iv. 260 ; Bouquet, 256. 

Thomas a Bechet. 137 

All exiles were to return on pain of 
losing their benefices. Priests who re- 
fused to chant the service were to be 
mutilated, and all rebels to forfeit their 
lands. An oath was to be adminis- 
tered by the sheriffs to all adults, that 
they would respect no ecclesiastical 
censure from the Archbishop. 

A second time Henry's ungovernable 
passion betrayed him into a step which, 
instead of lowering, only placed his 
antagonist in a more formidable posi- 
tion. He determined to drive him from 
his retreat at Pontigny. He sent word 
to the general of the Cistercian Becket 
order that it was at their peril, Pontigny. 
if they harbored a traitor to his throne. 
The Cistercians possessed many rich 
abbeys in England; they dared not 
defy at once the King's resentment 
and rapacity. It was intimated to the 
Abbot of Pontigny, that he must dis- 
miss his guest. The Abbot courteously 


138 Thomas d Bec'ket. 

communicated to Becket the danger 
incurred by the Order. He could not 
bnt withdraw ; but instead now of lurk- 
ing in a remote monastery, in some 
degree secluded from the public gaze, 
he was received in the archiepiscopal 
city of Sens ; his honorable residence 
was prepared in a monastery close to 
the city ; he lived in ostentatious 
communication with the Archbishop 
William, one of his most zealous parti- 

But the fury of haughtiness in Becket 
equaled the fury of resentment in the 
King : yet it was not without subtlety. 
Just before the scene at Yezelay, it has 
been said, the King had sent the Arch- 
bishop of Rouen and the Bishop of 
Lisieux to Pontigny, to lodge his appeal 
to the Pope. Becket, duly informed 
by his emissaries at the court, had taken 
care to be absent. He eluded likewise 

11 Herbert de Bosham, p. 232. 

Thomas a Bechet. 139 

the personal service of the appeal of the 
English clergy. An active and violent 
correspondence ensued. The remon- 
strance, pnrportinsc to be from controversy 

_ ' -■- -^ ^ with EngUsh 

the Parnate's suffragans and ciergy. 
the whole clergy of England, was not 
without dignified calmness. "With 
covert irony, indeed, they said that they 
had derived great consolation from the 
hope that, when abroad, he would cease 
to rebel against the King and the peace 
of the realm ; that he would devote his 
days to study and prayer, and redeem 
his lost time by fasting, watching, and 
weeping ; they reproached him with 
the former favors of the King, with the 
design of estranging the King from 
Pope Alexander ; they asserted the 
readiness of the King to do full justice, 
and concluded by lodging an appeal 
until the Ascension-day of the follow- 
ing year.i2 Foliot was no doubt the 
12 Epist. Giles, vi. 158 ; Bouquet, 259. 

140 Thomas a Bechet. 

author of tliis remonstrance, and be- 
tween tlie Primate and the Bishop of 
London broke out a fierce warfare of 
letters. With Foliot Becket kept no 
terms. " You complain that the Bishop 
of Salisbury has been excommunicated, 
without citation, without hearing, with- 
out judgment. Remember the fate of 
TJcalegon. He trembled when his 
neighbor's house was on fire." To 
Foliot he asserted the pre-eminence, the 
supremacy, the divinity of the S23iritual 
power without reserve. " Let not your 
liege lord be ashamed to defer to those 
to whom God himself defers, and calls 
them 'Gods.'" 13 Foliot replied with 

13 "N'on indignetur itaque Dominus noster 
deferre iUis, quibus summus omnium deferre 
non dedignatur, Deos appellans eos ssepius in 
sacris Uteris. Sic enim dixit, 'Ego dixit, Dii 
estis,' et ' Constituti te Deum Pliaraonis,' et 
'Deis non detraliere.' " — ^Epist. Giles, iii. p. 28T; 
Bouquet, 261. 

Thomas a Bechet. Ml 

what may be received as the manifesto 
of his party, and as the manifesto of a 
party to he received with some mistrust, 
yet singularly curious, as showing the 
tone of defence taken by the opponents 
of the Primate among the English 

The address of the English prelates to 
Pope Alexander was more moderate, 
and drawn with great ability. It as- 
serted the justice, the obedience to the 
Church, the great virtue and (a bold 
assertion !) the conjugal fidelity of the 
King. The King had at once obeyed 
the citation of the Bishops of London 
and Salisbury, concerning some en- 
croachments on the Church condemned 
by the Pope. The sole design of Henry 
had been to promote good morals, and 

14 Foliot took the precaution of paying into 
the exchequer all that he had received from the 
sequestered property of the see of Canterhury. 
— Giles, V. p. 265. Lyttelton in Appendice. 

142 Thomas a BecTcet. 

to maintain the peace of tlie realm. 
That peace had been restored. All 
resentments had died away, when 
Eecket fiercely recommenced the strife ; 
in sad and terrible letters had threaten- 
ed the King with excommimication, the 
realm wdth interdict. He had suspend- 
ed the Bishop of Salisbury without trial. 
" This was the whole of the cruelty, 
perversity, malignity of the King 
against the Church, declaimed on and 
bruited abroad throughout the world."^^ 
The indefatigable John of Oxford was 
in Rome, perhaps the bearer of this ad- 
dress. Becket wrote to the Pope, insist- 
ing on all the cruelties of the King ; he 
John of calls him a malignant tyrant, one 
at Rome, full of all malice. He dwelt 
especially on the imprisonment of one 

15 " Hsec est Domini regis toto orbe declamata 
crudelitas, hsec ab eo persecutio, hsBC operum 
ejus perversorum rumusculis undique divulgata 
malignitas." — Giles, vi. 190 ; Bouquet, 265. 

Thomas a Bechet. 143 

of liis cliaplains, for wliicli violation of 
the sacred person of a clerk, the King 
was ipso facto excommnnic ate. ' ' Christ 
was crncified anew in Becket.''^^ He 
complained of the presumption of Foliot, 
who had usurped the power of pri- 
mate ; ^^ Warned the Pope against the 
wiles of John of Oxford ; deprecated the 
legatine mission, of which he had alrea- 
dy heard a rumor, of William of Pavia. 
And all these letters, so unsparing to 
the King, or copies of them, probably 
bought out of the Poman chancery, 
were regularly transmitted to the Elng. 

16 Giles, iii. 6 ; Bcyiquet, 266. Compare let- 
ter of Bishop Elect of Ohartres. — Giles, vi. 211 • 
Bouquet, 269. 

1'^ Foliot obtained letters either at this time or 
somewhat later from his own Chapter of St. 
Paul, fi'om many of the greatest dignitaries of 
the English Church, the abbots of Westminster 
and Reading, and from some distinguished 
foreign ecclesiastics, in favor of himself, his 
piety, churchmanship, and impartiality. 

144 Thomas a Bechet. 

John of Oxford began his mission at 
Rome by swearing nndanntedly, that 
nothing had been done at Wurtzbnrg 
against the power of the Chnrch or the 
interests of Pope Alexander.^^ He sur- 
rendered his deanery of Salisbury into 

18 The German accounts are unanimous about 
the proceedings at Wurtzburg and the oath of 
the English ambassadors'. See the account in 
Von Eaumer (loc. cit.), especially of the conduct 
of Reginald of Cologne, and the authorities. 
John of Oxford is henceforth called, in John of 
Salisbury's letters, jurator. Becket repeatedly 
charges him with perjury. — Giles, iii. p. 129 and 
351 ; Bouquet, 280. Becket there says that 
John of Oxford had given tip part of the " cus- 
toms." He begs John of Poitiers to let the King 
know this. See the very curious answer of 
John of Poitiers. — Giles, vi. 251 ; Bouquet, 280. 
It appears that as all Becket's letters to the 
Pope were copied and transmitted from Rome 
to Henry, so John of Poitiers, outwardly the 
King's loyal subject, is the secret spy of Becket. 
He speaks of those in England who thirst after 
Becket's blood. 

Thomas a Bechet. 145 

tlie hands of the Pope, and received it 
back again.^^ John of Oxford was 
armed with more powerful weapons 
than perjury or submission, and the 
times now favored the use of these more 
irresistible arms. The Emperor Frede- 
rick was levying, if he had not already 
set in motion, that mighty army which 
swept, during the next year, through 
Italy, made him master of Kome, and 
witnessed his coronation and the en- 
thronement of the Antipope.^^ Henry 
had now, notwithstanding his suspicious 
— ^more than suspicious — dealings with 
the Emperor, returned to his allegi* 
ance to Alexander. Yast sums of Eng- 

19 The Pope acknowledge3 that this was ex- 
torted from him by fear of Henry, and makes 
an awkward apology to Becket. — Giles, iv. 18 ; 
Bouquet, 309. 

20 He was crowned in Rome August 1. Com- 
pare next chapter — Sismondi, Republiques, 
Italiennes, ii. ch. x. ; YonEaumer, ii. p. 209, &c. 


146 Thomas a Bechet. 

lish money were from this time expend- 
ed in strengthening the cause of the 
Pope. The Gnelfic cities of Italy re- 
ceived them with greedy hands. By 
the gold of the King of England, and of 
the King of Sicily, the Frangipani and 
the family of Peter Leonis were retain- 
ed in their fidelity to the Pope. Becket, 
on the other hand, had powerful friends 
in Rome, especially the Cardinal Hya- 
cinth, to whom he writes, that Henry 
had boasted that in Eome everything 
Dec. 1166. was vcnal. It was, however, 
not till a second embassy arrived, con- 
sisting of John Cummin and Palph 
of Tamworth, that Alexander made 
his great concession, the sign that he 
was not yet extricated from his distress. 
He appointed "William of Pavia, and 
Otho, Cardinal of St. ISTicholas, his 
legates in France, to decide the cause.^^ 

21 Giles, iii. 128; Bouquet, 272. Compare 
Letters to Cardinals Boso and Henry. — Giles, 

Thomas a Beclcet. 147 

Meantime all Becket's acts were sus- 
pended by the papal antliorit j. At tlie 
same time the Pope wrote to Becket, 
entreating him at this perilous time of 
the Church to make all possible conces- 
sions, and to dissemble, if necessary, for 
the present.22 

If John of Oxford boasted premature- 
ly of his triumph (on his return to Eng- 
land he took ostentatious possession of 
his deanery of Salisbury 2^), and predict- 
ed the utter ruin of Becket, his friends, 

iii. 103, 113 ; Bouquet, 174. Letter to Henry 
announcing tlie appointment, December 20. 

22 "Si non omnia secundum beneplacitum 
succedant, ad prsesens dissimulet. — Giles, vi. 15 ; 
Bouquet, 277. 

23 See the curious letter of Master Lombard, 
Becket's instructor in tbe canon law, wbo boldly 
remonstrates with the Pope. He asserts that 
Henry was so frightened at the menace of ex- 
communication, his subjects, even the bishops, 
at that of his interdict, that they were in des- 
pair. Their only hope was in the death or some 

148 Thomas d Becltet. 

especially the King of France,^ were 
in ntter dismay at this change in the 
papal policy. John, as Becket had 
heard (and his emissaries were every- 
where), on his landing in England, had 
met the Bishop of Hereford (one of the 
wavering bishops), prepared to cross the 
sea in obedience to Becket's citation. 
To him, after some delay, John had ex- 
hibited letters of the Pope, which sent 
him back to his diocese. On the sight 
of these same letters, the Bishop of 
London had exclaimed in the fullness 
of his joy, "Then our Thomas is no 
longer archbishop ! " "If this be true," 
adds Becket, "the Pope has given a 
death-blow to the Church." ^5 To the 

great disaster of the Pope. — Giles, iv. 208; 
Bouquet, 282. 

24 See Letters of Louis ; Giles, iv. 308 ; Bou- 
quet, 287. 

25 " Strangulavit," a favorite word. — Giles, 
iii. 214 ; Bouquet, 284. 

Thomas a Bechet. 149 

Arclibisliop of Mentz, for in tlie empire 
lie had his ardent admirers, he poured 
forth all the bitterness of his soul.^^ Of 
the two cardinals he writes, " The one 
is weak and versatile, the other treacher- 
ous and crafty." He looked to their 
arrival with indignant aj)prehension. 
They are open to bribes, and may be 
perverted to any injustice.^^ 

26 Giles, iii. 235 ; Bouquet, 285. 

2T Compare John of Salisbury, p. 539. " Scrip- 
sit autem rex Domino Coloniensis, Henricum 
Pisanum et Willelmum Papiensem in Franciam 
venturos ad novas exactiones faciendas, ut 
undique conradant et contrahant, unde Papa 
Alexander in urbe sustentetur ; alter, ut nostis, 
levis est et mutabilis, alter dolosus et fraudulen- 
tus, uterque cupidus et avarug : et ideo de facili 
munera coenabunt eos et ad omnem injustitiam 
incurvabunt. Audito eorum detestando adventu 
formidare csepi prsesentiam eorum causae vestraa 
multum nocituram ; et ne vestro et vestrorum 
sanguine gratiam Eegis Anglige redimere non 
erubescant." He refers with great joy to the 

insurrection of the Saxons against the Emperor. 

150 Thomas d JSecTcet. 

i ' 

John of Oxford had proclaimed that 
the cardinals, William of Pavia, and 
Otho, were invested in full powers to 
pass judgment between the King and 
the Primate.28 But whether John of 
Oxford had mistaken or exaggerated • 
their powers, or the Pope (no impro- 
bable case, considering the change of 
affairs in Italy) had thought fit after- 
wards to modify or retract them, they 
came rather as mediators than judges, 
with orders to reconcile the contending 
parties, rather than to decide on their 
cause. The cardinals did not arrive in 
France till the autumn of the year.^^ 

He says elsewhere of Henry of Pisa, " Yir bonss 
opinionis est, sed Eomanus et Cardinalis." — 
Epist. CO. ii. 

28 The English bishops declare to the Pope 
himself that they had received this concession, 
scripto formatum, from the Pope, and that the 
King was furious at what he thought a decep- 
tion.-^Giles, vi. 194; Bouquet, 304. 

29 The Pope wrote to the legates to soothe 

Thomas a BecTcet. 151 

Even before their arrival, first rumors, 
tlien more certain intelligence had been 
propagated throughout Christendom of 
the terrible disaster which had befallen 
the Emperor. Barbarossa's career of ven- 
2:eance and conquest had been a. d. iigt. 

rrn -rt . 'PMgh.t of 

cut short. The Pope a prisoner, Frederick. 
a fugitive, was unexpectedly released, 
restored to power, if not to the posses- 
sion of Rome.^^ The climate of Rome, 
as usual, but in a far more fearful man- 

Becket and the King of France; he accuses 
John of Oxford of spreading false reports about 
the extent of their commission ; John Cummin 
of betraying his letters to the Antipope. — Griles, 
vi. 54. 

30 So completely does Becket's fortune follow- 
that of the Pope, that on June 17 Alexander 
writes to permit Eoger of York to crown the 
King's son ; no sooner is he safe in Benevento, 
August 22 (perhaps the fever had begun), than 
he writes to his legates to confirm the excom- 
communications of Becket, which he had sus- 

152 Thomas a BecTcet. 

ner, liad resented the invasion of the 
city by the German army. A pesti- 
lence had broken ont, which in less 
than a month made snch havoc among 
the soldiers, that they could scarcely 
find room to bnry the dead. The fever 
seemed to choose its victims among the 
higher clergy, the partisans of the Anti- 
pope; of the princes and nobles, the 
chief victims were the younger Duke 
Guelf, Duke Frederick of Swabia, and 
some others ; of the bishops, those of 
Prague, Ratisbon, Augsburg, Spires, 
Yerdun, Liege, Zeitz; and the arch- 
rebel himself, the antipope-maker, Regi- 
nald of Cologne.^^ Throughout Europe 
the clergy on the side of Alexander 
raised a cry of awful exultation ; it was 
God manifestly avenging himself on 

81 Muratori, sub ann. 1167; Yon Eaumer, 
ii. 210. On the 1st of August Frederick was 
crowned ; September 4, be is at tbe Pass of Pon- 
tremoli, in full retreat, or ratber fligbt. 

Thomas a Bechet. 153 

tlie enemies of the Cliurcli ; the new 
Sennacherib (so he is called by Becket) 
had been smitten in his pride ; and the 
example of this chastisement of Fred- 
erick was a command to the Chnrch to 
resist to the last all rebels against her 
power, to put forth her spiritual arms, 
which God would as assuredly support 
by the same or more signal wonders. 
The defeat of Frederick was an admo- 
nition to the Pope to lay bare the sword 
of Peter, and smite on all sides.^^ 

Tliere can be no doubt that Becket 
so interpreted what he deemed Becket 

/ , -P, ^ against the 

a sign irom heaven. But even legates. 

S2 In a curious passage in a letter written by 
Herbert de Bosham in tbe name of Becket, 
Frederick's defeat is compared to Henry's dis- 
graceful campaign in "Wales. " My enemy," 
says Becket, " in tbe abundance of bis valor, 
could not prevail against a breecbless and ragged 
people (' exbraccatum et pannosum')." — Giles, 
viii. p. 268. 

154: Thomas a Bechet. 

before the disaster was certainly known 
lie liad determined to show no submis- 
sion to a judge so partial and so corrupt 
as William of Pavia.^^ That cardinal 
had urged the Pope at Sens to accept 
Becket's resignation of his see. Becket 
wonld not deign to disguise his con- 
tempt. He wrote a letter so full of vio- 
lence that John of Salisbury,^ to whom 
it was submitted, persuaded him to de- 
stroy it. A second was little milder ; 
at length he was persuaded to" take a 
more moderate tone. Yet even then he 
speaks of the " insolence of princes lift- 

83 " Oredimus non esse juri consentaneum, 
nos ejus subire judicium vel examen qui quserit 
sibi facere commercium de sanguine nostro, de 
pretio utinam non iniquitatis, quaerit sibi nomen 
et gloriam." — D. Thorn. Epist. Giles, iii. p. 15. 
The two legates are described as " plus avaritiae 
quam justitise studiosi." — W. Cant. p. 21. 

34 Giles, iii. 15V, and John of Salisbury's re- 
markable expostulatory letter upon Becket's 
violence. — Bouquet, p. 566. 

Thomas a Bechet. 155 

ing up their horn." To Cardinal Otho, 
on the other hand, his language borders 
on adulation. 

The cardinal Legates traveled in 
slow state. They visited first Meeting 
Becket at Sens, afterwards King Gisors. 
Henry at Rouen. At length a meeting 
was agreed on to be held on the borders 
of the French and English territory, 
between Gisors and Trie. The proud 
Becket was disturbed at being hastily 
summoned, when he was unable to 
muster a sufiicient retinue of horsemen 
to meet the Italian cardinals. The two 
kings were there. Of Henry's prelates 
the Archbishop of Rouen alone was 
present at the first interview. Becket 
was charged with urging the King of 
France to war against his master. On 
the following day the King of France 
said in the presence of the cardinals, 
that this impeachment on Beck- octave of 

^,1 1^ -^ r> ^ m n St. Martin. 

et s loyalty was lalse. io all Nov. 23. 

166 Thomas d Bechet. 

tlie persuasions, menaces, entreaties of 
the cardinals^^ Becket declared that lie 
would submit, '' saving the honor of 
God, and of the Apostolic See, the lib- 
erty of the Church, the dignity of his 
person, and the property of the churches. 
As to the Customs he declared that he 
would rather bow his neck to the exe- 
cutioner than swear to observe them. 
He peremptorily demanded his ow3i 
restoration at once to all the honors 
and possessions of his see." The third 
question was on the appeal of the bish- 
ops. Becket inveighed with bitterness 
on their treachery towards him, their 
servility to the King. " When the 
shepherds fled all Egypt returned to 
idolatry." Becket interpreted these 
" shepherds " as the clergy .^^ He com- 
pares them to the slaves in the old 

S5 Herbert de Bosham, p. 248 ; Epist. Giles, 
ill. 16; Bouquet, 296. 
86 Giles, iii. p. 21. Compare the whole letter. 

Thomas d Bec'ket. 157 

comedy; lie declared that he would 
submit to no judgment on that point 
but that of the Pope himself. 

The Cardinals proceeded to the King. 
They were received but coldly The cardi- 

. •' nals before 

at Argences, not tar irom Caen, the King. 
at a great meeting with the ITorman 
and English prelates. The Bishop of 
London entered at length into the 
King's grievances and his own ; Beck- 
et's debt to the King,^^ his usurpations 
on the see of London. At the close 
Henry, in tears, entreated the cardinals 
to rid him of the troublesome church- 
man. "William of Pavia wept, or seem- 
ed to weep from sympathy. Otho, 
writes Becket's emissary, could hardly 
suppress his laughter. The English 
prelates afterwards at Le Mans solemn- 
ly renewed their appeal. Their appeal 

37 Foliot rather profanely said, tlie primate 
seems to tMnk that as sin is washed away in 
baptism, so debts are cancelled by promotion. 

158 Thomas d BecTcet. 

was accompanied with a letter, in wMcli 
they complain that Becket would leave 
them exposed to the wrath of the King, 
from which wrath he himself had fled f^ 
of false representations of the Customs, 
and disregard of all justice and of the 
sacred canons in suspending and ana- 
thematizing the clergy without hearing 
and without trial. William of Pavia 
gave notice of the appeal for the next 
St. Martin's Day (so a year was to 
elapse), with command to abstain from 
all excommunication and interdict of 
the kingdom till that day.^^ Both car- 
dinals wrote strongly to the Pope in 
favor of the Bishop of London.^*^ 

38 "Ad mortem nos invitat et sanguinis effu- 
sionem, cum ipse mortem, quam nemo sibi dig- 
nabatur aut minabatur inferre, summo studio 
declinaverit et suum sanguinem illibatum con- 
servando, ejus nee guttam effundi voluerit." — 
Giles vi. 196. Bouquet, 304. 

39 GUes, vi. 148. Bouquet, 304. 

40 Giles, vi. 135, 141. Bouquet, 306. Wil- 

Thomas d BecTtet. 159 

At this suspension Becket wrote to 
tlie Pope in a tone of mingled grief and 
indignation.^^ He described himself as 
the most wretched of men ; applied the 
prophetic description of the Saviour's 
unequaled sorrow to himself. He in- 
veighed against William of Pavia :*2 he 
threw himself on the justice and com- 
passion of the Pope. But this in- Dec. 29. 
hibition was confirmed by the Pope him- 
self, in answer to another embassage of 
Henry, consisting of Clarembold, Prior 
elect of St. Augustine's, the Archdeacon 

Ham of Pavia recommended the translation of 
Becket to some other see. 

41 Giles, iii. 28. Bouquet, 806. 

42 One of his letters to William of Pavia he- 
gins with this fierce denunciation: "ITon crede- 
bam me tibi venalem proponendum emptoribus, 
ut de sanguine meo compareres tibi compen- 
dium de pretio iniquitatis, faciens tibi nomen et 
gloriam." — Giles, iii. 153. Becket always re- 
presents his enemies as thirsting after his 

160 Thomas a Bechet, 

of Salisbury, and others.^^ This import- 
ant favor was obtained tbrough. tbe inter- 
est of Cardinal Jolm of I^aples, who ex- 
presses bis hope that the insolent Arch- 
bishop must at length see that he had 
no resource but in submission. 

Becket wrote again and again to the 
May 19. Popo, bitterly complaining that 
the Pope, the successive ambassadors of 
the King, John of Oxford, John Cum- 
min, the Prior of St. Augustine's, re- 
turned from Rome each with larger 
concessions.^ The Pope acknowledged 
that the concessions had been extorted 
from him. The ambassadors of Henry 
had threatened to leave the Papal Court, 
if their demands were not complied 
with, in open hostility. The Pope was 
still an exile in Benevento,^^ and did 

43 Giles, iv. 128; vi. 133. Bouquet, 312, 

44 Epist. Giles, ii. 24. 

45 He was at Benevento, though with differ- 

Thomas d Becket. 161 

not dare to reocciipj Rome. The Em- 
peror, e^en after his discomfitm'e, was 
still formidable ; lie might collect an- 
other overwhelming Transalpine force. 
The subsidies of Henry to the Italian 
cities and to the Roman partisans of 
the Pope could not be spared. The 
Pontiff therefore wrote soothing letters 
to the King of France and to Beck- 
et. He insinuated that these conces- 
sions were but for a time. " For a 
time !" replied Becket in an answer full 
of fire and passion : " and in that time 
the Church of England falls utterly to 
ruin ; the property of the Church and 
the poor is wrested from her. In that 
time prelacies and abbacies are confis- 
cated to the King's use : in that time 
who will guard the flock when the wolf 
is in the fold ? This fatal dispensation 
will be a precedent for all ages. But 

ent degrees of power, from August 22, 1167, to 
Feb. 24, 1170. 

162 TTiomafs a Bechet. 

for me and my fellow exiles all autlior- 
ity of Kome had ceased for, ever in 
England. There had been no one who 
had maintained the Pope against kings 
and princes." His significant language 
involves the Pope himself in the gene- 
ral and unsparing charge of rapacity 
and venality with which he brands the 
court of Pome. " I shall have to give 
an account at the last day, where gold 
and silver are of no avail, nor gifts 
which blind the eyes even of the wise."^^ 
The same contemptuous allusions to 
that notorious venality transpire in a 
To the vehement letter addressed to the 
Cardinals. Q^^igge of Cardluals, in which he 
urges that his cause is their own ; that 
they are sanctioning a fatal and irre- 
trievable example to temporal princes ; 
that they are abrogating all obedience 
to the Church. " Your gold and silver 

46 Giles, iii. p. 55. Bouquet, 317. Eead tbe 
whole letter beginning " Anima mea." 

Thomas a Becltet. 163 

will not deliver you in tlie day of tlie 
wrath of tlie Lord."*^ On the other 
hand, the King and the Queen of 
France wrote in a tone of indignant re- 
monstrance that the Pope had aban- 
doned the cause of the enemy of their 
enemy. More than one of the French 
prelates who wrote in the same strain 
declared that their King, in his resent- 
ment, had seriously thought of defection 
to the Antipope, and of a close connex- 
ion with the Imperial family .^^ Alex- 
ander determined to make another at- 
tempt at reconciliation; at least he 
should gain time, that precious source 
of hope to the embarrassed and irreso- 
lute. His mediators were the Prior of 
Montdieu and Bernard de Corilo, a 
monk of Grammont.^^ It was a for- 

47 Bouquet, 324. 

48 Epist. Giles, iv. Bouquet, 320. 

49 Thieir instructions are dated May 25, 
1168. See also the wavering letters to Becket 

164 T ho mas a BecJcet, 

tunate time, for just at this juncture, 
peace and even amity seemed to be es- 
tablished between tbe Kings of France 
and England. Many of tbe great ITor- 
man and Frencb prelates and nobles 
offered themselves as joint mediators 
with the commissioners of the Pope. 

A vast assembly was convened on the 
Meeting dav of the Epiphany in the plains 

at Mont- '^ ^^ . . ., 1 . .1 

mirau. near Montmirail, where m the 
presence of the two kings and the barons 
of each realm the reconciliation was to 
take place. Becket held a long con- 
ference with the mediators. He pro- 
posed, instead of the obnoxious phrase 
'' saving my order," to substitute " sav- 
ing the honor of God ; " ^"^ the mediators 

and tlie King of France. — Giles, iv. p. 25, p. 

50"Sed quid? Nobis ita consilium suspen- 
dentibus et bsesitantibus quid agendum a pacis 
mediatoribus, multis et magnis viris, et praeser- 
tim qui inter ipsos a viris religosis et aliis arcM- 

Thomas a Bechet. 165 

of the treaty insisted on his throwing 
himself on the King's mercy absolutely 
and without reservation. With great 
reluctance Becket appeared at least to 
yield : his counselors acquiesced in 
silence. With this distinct understand- 
ing the Kings of France and England 
met at Montmirail, and everything 
seemed prepared for the final settlement 
of this long and obstinate quar- Jan. 6,ii69. 
rel. The Kings awaited the approach 
of the Primate. But as he was on his 
way, De Bosham (who always assumes 
to himself the credit of suggesting 
Becket's most haughty proceedings) 
whispered in his ear (De Bosham him- 
self asserts this) a solemn caution, lest 
he should act over again the fatal scene 
of w^eakness at Clarendon. Becket had 

praesTili amicissimis et familiarissimis, adeo 
sicut et supra diximus, suasus, tractus et im- 
piilsus est, ut haberetur persuasus." — ^De Bosh- 
am, p. 268. 

166 TJiomas d B ecTtet . 

not time to answer De Bosham : he ad- 
vanced to the King and threw himself 
at his feet. Henry raised him instantly 
from the gronnd. Becket, standing up- 
right, began to solicit the clemency of 
the King. He declared his readiness 
to submit his whole cause to the judg- 
ment of the two Kings and of the as- 
sembled prelates and nobles. After a 
j)ause he added, " Saving the honor of 
God." SI 

At this unexpected breach of his 
agreement the mediators, even the most 
ardent admirers of Becket, stood aghast. 
Treaty Hcury, thinking himself duped, 
broken off. ^^ spj^ hc might, broke out into 

51 " Sed mox adjecit, quod nee rex neo pacis 
mediatores, vel alii, vel etiam sui propria sesti- 
maverunt, ut adjiceret videlicet ' Salvo honore 
Dei.' " — De Bosham, p. 262. In Ms account to 
the Pope of this meeting, Becket suppresses his 
own tergiversation on this point. — ^Epist. Giles, 
iii. p. 43. Compare John of Salisbury (who 
was not present). Bouquet, 395. 

Thomas d Bec'ket, 167 

one of his ungoYernable fits of anger. 
He reproaclied the Archbishop with 
arrogance, obstinacy, and ingratitude. 
He so far forgot himself as to declare 
that Becket had displayed all his mag- 
nificence and prodigality as chancellor 
only to court popularity and to suj)plant 
his king in the affections of his people. 
Becket listened with patience, and ap- 
pealed to the King of France as witness 
to his loyalty. Henry fiercely inter- 
rupted him. " Mark, Sire (he address- 
ed the King of France), the infatuation 
and pride of the man : he pretends to 
have been banished, though he fled 
from his see. He would persuade you 
that he is maintaining the cause of the 
Church, and suffering for the sake of 
justice. I have always been willing, 
and am still willing, to grant that he 
should rule his Church with the same 
liberty as his predecessors, men not less 
holy than himself." Even the King of 

168 Thomas d Becket. 

France seemed shocked at the conduct 
of Becket. The prelates and nobles, 
having in vain labored to bend the in- 
flexible spirit of the Primate, retired in 
sullen dissatisfaction. He stood alone. 
Even John of Poitiers, his most ardent 
admirer, followed him to Etampes, and 
entreated him to yield. " And you, 
too," returned Becket, " will you stran- 
gle us, and give triumph to the malig- 
nity of our enemies ? " ^^ 

The King of England retired, follow- 
ed by the Papal Legates, who, though 
they held letters of Commination from 
the Pope,^ delayed to serve them on 

52 "Ut quid nos et.vos strangulatis ? " — ^Epist. 
Giles, iii. 312. 

53 Throughout the Pope kept up his false 
game. He privately assured the King of France 
that he need not be alarmed if himself (Alexan- 
der) seemed to take part against the archbishop. 
The cause was safe in his bosom. See the 
curious letter of Matthew of Sens. — ^Epist. Giles, 
iv. p. 166. 

Thomas a Bechet. 169 

the King. Becket followed the Eng 
of France to Montmirail. He was re- 
ceived by Louis ; and Becket put on 
so cheerful a countenance as to surj)rise 
all present. On his return to Sens, he 
explained to his followers that his cause 
was not only that of the Church, but of 
God.^ He passed among the acclama- 
tions of the populace, ignorant of his 
duplicity. "Behold the prelate who 
stood up even before two kings for the 
honor of God." 

Becket may have had foresight, or 
even secret information of the hoUow- 
ness of the peace between the two kings. 
Before many days, some acts of barbar- 
ous cruelty by Henry against war 
his rebellious subjects plunged England 
the two nations again in hostility. The 
Eang of France and his prelates, feeling 

54"N'unc prseter ecclesise causam, expressam 
ipsius etiam Dei causam agebamus." — ^De Bosh- 
am, 272. 


France and 

lYO Th omasa B eclcet. 

how nearly they had lost their powerful 
ally, began to admire what they called 
Becket's magnanimity as loudly as they 
had censured his obstinacy. The King 
visited him at Sens : one of the Papal 
commissioners, the Monk of Grammont, 
said privately to Herbert de Bosham, 
that he had rather his foot had been cnt 
off than that Becket should have listen- 
ed to his advice.^^ 

Becket now at once drew the sword 
and cast away the scabbard. " Cursed 
is he that refraineth his sword from 
blood." This Becket applied to the 
spiritual weapon. On Ascension Day 
Excommu- ^^ ^galu solcmuly excommuni- 
nication. (j^tcd Gilbert Foliot Bishop of 
London, Joscelin of Salisbury, the Arch- 
deacon of Salisbury, Kichard de Luci, 
Eandulph de Broc, and many other of 
Henry's most faithful counselors. He 
announced this excommunication to the 

55 De Bosham, 278. 

Thomas a Bechet. 171 

Archbishop of Rouen,^^ and remmcled 
him that whosoever presumed to com- 
municate with anj one of these outlaws 
of the Church by word, in meat or 
drink, or even by salutation, subjected 
himself thereby to the same excommu- 
nication. The appeal to the Pope he 
treated with sovereign contempt. He 
sternly inhibited Roger of "Worcester, 
who had entreated permission to com- 
municate with his brethren. ^^ " What 
fellowship is there between Christ and 
Belial ? " He announced this act to the 
Pope, entreating, but with the tone of 
command, his approbation of the pro- 
ceeding. An emissary of Bechet had 
the boldness to enter St. Paul's Cathe- 
dral in London, to thrust the sentence 
into the hands of the officiating priest, 
and then to proclaim with a loud voice, 
" Know all men, that Gilbert Bishop of 

56 Giles, iii. 290 ; vi. 293. Bouquet, 346. 
5' Giles, iii. 322. Bouquet, 348. 

172 Th omasa B echet. 

London is excommnnicate by Thomas 
Archbishop of Canterbury and Legate 
of the Pope." He escaped with some 
difficulty from ill-nsage by the people. 
Foliot immediately summoned his 
clergy ; explained the illegality, injus- 
tice, nullity of an excommunication 
without citation, hearing, or trial, and 
renewed his appeal to the Pope. The 
Dean of St. Paul's and all the clergy, 
excepting the priests of certain monas- 
teries, j oined in the appeal.- The Bishop 
of Exeter declined, nevertheless he gave 
to Foliot the kiss of peace.^^ 

King Henry was not without fear at 
Henry's this last dcsperatc blow. He 

intrigues .tit. i 

in Italy, had uot a Single cnaplam who 
had not been excommunicated, or was 
not virtually under ban for holding 
intercourse with persons under excom- 
munication.^^ He continued his active 

58 Epist. Giles, iv. 225. 

59 Fragm. Yit. Giles, i. p. 371. 

Thoinas a Bechet. 173 

intrigues, liis subsidies in Italy. He 
bought tbe support of Milan, Pavia, 
Cremona, Parma, Bologna. The Fran- 
gipani, tlie family of Leo, the people of 
Rome, were still kept in allegiance to 
tbe Pope cHefly by liis lavish pay- 
ments.^^ He made overtures to the 
King of Sicily, the Pope's ally, for a 
matrimonial alliance with his family : 
and finally, he urged the tempting offer 
to mediate a peace between the Em- 
peror and the Pope. Reginald of Salis- 
bury boasted that, if the Pope should 
die, Henry had the whole College of 
Cardinals in his pay, and could name 
his Pope.^^ 

60 Et quod omnes Romanos data pecunia indu- 
cant ut faciant fidelitatem domino Papee, dum- 
modo in nostra dejectione regis Angliee satis- 
faciat volnntati." — Epist. ad Humbold. Card. 
Giles, iii. 123. Bouquet, 350. Compare Lam- 
beth, on the effect of Italian affairs on the con- 
duct of the Pope. — ^p. 106. 

61 Epist. 188, p. 266. 


1Y4 Thomas d BecTcet. 

But no longer dependent on Henry's 
largesses to his partisans, Alexander's 
affairs wore a more prosperous aspect. 
He began, yet cautiously, to sliow his 
real bias. He determined to appoint a 
New Legatine now Icgatiuo commissiou, not 

Commission. , 

Mar. 10, 1169. now rapacious cardmals and 
avowed partisans of Henry. The I^un- 
cios were Gratian^ a hard and severe 
canon lawyer, not likely to swerve from 
the loftiest claims of the Decretals ; and 
Yivian, a man of more pliant character, 
but as far as he was firm in any princi- 
ple, disposed to high ecclesiastical views. 
At the same time he urged Becket to 
issue no sentences against the King or 
the King's followers ; or if, as he hardly 
believed, he had already done so, to 
suspend their powers. 

The terrors of the excommunicatiqn 
English pre- wcrc uot without their effect 
lates waver. -^ England. Somc of the Bish- 
ops began gradually to recede from the 

Thomas a Beclcet. 1Y5 

King's partj, and to incline to tliat of 
tlie Primate. Hereford had .already 
attempted to cross the sea. Henry of 
Winchester was in private correspond- 
ence with Becket : he had thronghout 
secretly supplied him with money. ^^ 
Becket skillfully labored to awaken his 
old spirit of opposition to the Crown. 
He reminded Winchester of his royal 
descent, that he was secure in his pow- 
erful connexions ; " the impious one 
would not dare to strike him, for fear 
lest his kindred should avenge his 
cause."^^ ISTorwich, Worcester, Chester, 
even Chichester, more than wavered. 
This movement was strengthened by a 
•false step of Foliot, which exposed all 
his former proceedings to the charge 

62 Fitz-Stephen, p. 271. 

63 " Domo vestra flagellum suspendit impius, 
ne quod promereret, propinqnorum vestrorum 
ministerio veniat super eum." — Giles, iii. 338. 
Bouquet, 358. 

176 Thomas a Beclcet. 

of irregular ambition. He began to 
declare publicly not only that he never 
swore canonical obedience to Becket, 
but to assert the independence of the 
see of London and the right of the see 
of London to the primacy of England. 
Becket speaks of this as an act of spirit- 
ual parricide : Foliot was another Ab- 
salom.*^ He appealed to the pride and 
the fears of the Chapter of Canterbury: 
he exposed, and called on them to resist, 
these machinations of Foliot to degrade 
the archiepiscopal see. At the same 
time he warned all persons to abstain 
from communion with those who were 
under his ban ; " for he had accurate 
information as to all who were guilty 
of that offence." Even in France this 
proc'eeding strengthened the sympathy 
with Becket. The Archbishop of Sens, 
the Bishops of Troyes, Paris, [N^oyon, 

.64 Giles, iii. 201. Bouquet, 361. 

Thomas d JSecJcet. 177 

Auxerre, Boulogne, wrote to tlie Pope 
to denounce tliis audacious impiety of 
the Bishop of London. 

The first interview of the new Papal 
legates, Gratian and Yivian, interview 

f ^ . ' of the new 

With the ivmff, is described Legates with 

. T . -, . , the King. 

with singular minuteness by a Aug. 23. 
friend of Becket.^^ On the eve of St. Bar- 
tholomew's Day they arrived at Dam- 
port. On their approach, Geoffrey Ridel 
and JSTigel Sackville stole out of the town. 
The King, as he came in from hunting, 
courteously stopped at the lodging of 
the Legates : as they were conversing 
the Prince rode up with a great blow- 
ing of horns from the chase, and pre- 
sented a whole stag to the Legates. 
The next morning the King visited 
them, accompanied by the Bishops of 
Seez and of Eennes. Presently John 
of Oxford, Reginald of Salisbury, 

65 " Amici 
Bouquet, 370. 

178 Thomas a Beclcet. 

and the Arclideacoii of Llandaffwere 
admitted. The conference lasted the 
whole day, sometimes in amity, some- 
times in strife. Just before sunset the 
King rnshed out in wrath, swearing by 
the eyes of God that he would not sub- 
mit to their terms. Gratian firmly re- 
plied, " Think not to threaten us ; we 
come from a court which is accustomed 
to command Emperors and Kings." 
The King then summoned his barons 
to witness, together with his chaplains, 
what fair offers he had made. He de- 
parted somewhat pacified. The eighth 
day was appointed for the convention, 
at which the King and the Archbishop 
were again to meet in the presence of 
the Legates. 

It was held at Bayeux. With the 
Aug. 31. King appeared the Archbishops 
of Rouen and Bordeaux, the Bishop of 
Le Mans, and all the ISTorman prelates. 
The second day arrived one English 

Thomas a Beclcet. 179 

bishop — ^Worcester. John of Poitiers 
kept prudently away. The Legates 
presented the Pope's preceding letters 
in favor of Becket. Tlie King, after 
stating his grievances,^^ said, " If for 
this man I do anything, on account of 
the Pope's entreaties, he ought to be 
very grateful." The next day at a 
place called Le Bar, the King requested 
the Legates to absolve his chaplains 
without any oath : on their refusal, the 
King mounted his horse, and swore that 
he would never listen to the Pope or 
any one else concerning the restoration 
of Becket. The prelates interceded; 
the Legates partially gave way. The 
Kjng dismounted and renewed the con- 
ference. At length he consented to the 
return of Becket and all the exiles. He 

66 Henry, it should be observed, waived all 
the demands which he had hitherto urged against 
Becket, for debts incurred during his chancellor- 

180 Thomas a Bechet, 

seemed deliglited at tliis, and treated of 
other affairs. He returned again to tlie 
Legates, and demanded tliat they, or 
one of them, or at least some one com- 
missioned by them, should cross over 
to England to absolve all who had been 
excommunicated by the Primate. Gra- 
tian refused this with inflexible obstina- 
cy. The King was again furious: ^' I care 
not an egg for you and your excommu- 
nications." He again mounted his 
horse, but at the earnest supplication 
of the prelates he returned once more. 
He demanded that they should write 
to the Pope to announce his pacific 
offers. The Bishops explained to the 
King that the Legates had at last pro- 
duced a positive mandate of the Pope, 
enjoining their absolute obedience to 
his Legates. The King replied, " I 
know that they will lay my realm under 
an interdict, but cannot I, who can take 
the strongest castle in a day, seize any 

Thomas d Bechet. 181 

ecclesiastic who shall presume to utter 
such an interdict ?" Some concessions 
allayed his wrath, and he returned to his 
offers of reconciliation. Geoffrj Eidel 
and Mgel Sackville were' absolved 
on the condition of declaring, with 
their hands on the Gospels, that they 
would obey the commands of the Le- 
gates. The King still pressing the visit 
of one of the Legates to England, Yivian 
consented to take the journey. The 
bishops were ordered to draw up the 
treaty; but the King insisted on a 
clause " Saving the honor of his Crown." 
They adjourned to a future day at 
Caen. The Bishop of Lisieux, adds 
the writer, flattered the King ; the Arch- 
bishop of Eouen was for God and the 

Two conferences at Caen and at Eou- 
en were equally inconclusive ; the King- 
insisted on the words, " saving the dig- 
nity of my Crown." Becket inquired 


182 Thomas d Bechet. 

if he miglit add " saving the liberty of 
the Chiirch."67 

Tlie King threw all the blame of the 
final rupture on the Legates, who had 
agreed, he said, to this clause, ^^ but 
through Becket's influence withdrew 
from their word.^^ He reminded the 
Pope that he had in his possession let- 
ters of his Holiness exempting him and 
his realm from all authority of the Pri- 
mate till he should be received into the 
royal favor.'^*^ " If," he adds, " the Pope 

6T Epist. Giles, iv. 216. Bouqnet, 373. 

68 " Eevocato consensu," writes the Bishop of 
Nevers, a moderate prelate, who regrets the 
obstinacy of the nuncios. Giles, vi. 266.- Bou- 
quet, 377. Compare the letter of the clergy of 
Normandy to the Pope. — Giles, vi. 177. Bou- 
quet, 377. 

69 Becket thought, or pretended to think, 
that under the " dignitatibus " lurked the " con- 
suetudinibus." — Giles, iii. 299. Bouquet, 379. 

'^^ " Oeteras vestras recepimus, et ipsas adhuc 
penes nos habemus, in quibus terram nostram 

Thomas d Becket. 183 

refuses my demands, he must hence- 
forth, despair of my good will, and look 
to other quarters to protect his realm 
and his honor." Both parties renewed 
their appeals, their intrigues in Rome ; 
Becket's coniplaints of Eome's venality 
became louder.'^^ 

Becket began again to fulminate his 
excommunications. Before his depart- 
ure Gratian signified to Geoffry Ridel 
and l^igel Sackville that their absolu- 
tion was conditional ; if ]3eace was not 
ratified by Michaelmas, they were still 
under the ban. Becket menaced some 
old, some new victims, the Dean of 
Salisbury, John Cummin, the Arch- 

et personas regni a prsefata Cantuarensis potes- 
tate eximebatis, donee ipse in gratiam nostram 
rediisset." — Epist. Giles, vi. 291. Bouquet, 374. 
'^^ " Nam quod mundus sentit, dolet, ingemis- 
cit, nullus adeo iniquam causam ad ecclesiam 
Romanam defert, quin ibi spe lucri concepta ne 
dixerim odore sordium, adjutorem inveniat et 
patronum." — Epist. iii. 133; Bouquet, 382. 

184 Thomas d Beolcet. 

deacon of Llandaff, and oth.ers.'^^ But 
he now took a more decisive and terri- 
ble step. He wrote to tlie bishops of 
England,^^ commanding them to lay 
the whole kingdom under interdict ; all 
divine offices were to cease except bap- 
tism, penance, and the viaticum, unless 
Nov. 2, iiTo. before the Feast of the Purifi- 
cation the King should have given full 
satisfaction for his contumacy to the 
Church. This was to be done with 
closed doors, the laity expelled from 
the ceremony, with no bell tolling, no 
dirge wailing ; all church music was to 
cease. The act was specially announced 
to the chapters of Chichester, Lincoln, 
and Bath. Of the Pope he demanded 
that he would treat the King's am- 
bassadors, Eeginald of Salisbury and 
Hichard Barre, one as actually ex- 
communicate, the other as contami- 

"^2 Giles, iii. 250 ; Bouquet, 387. 
T3 Giles, iii. 834 ; Bouquet, 388. 

Thomas a Bechet. 185 

nated by intercourse with the excom- 

The menace of the Interdict, with the 
fear that the Bishops of England, all 
but London and Salisbury, might be 
overawed into publishing it in their 
dioceses, threw Henry back into his 
usual irresolution. There were other 
alarming signs. Gratian had returned 
to Rome, accompanied by William, 
Archbishop of Sens, Becket's most faith- 
ful admirer. Eumors spread that Wil- 
liam was to return invested in full 

74 Giles, iii. 42 ; Bouquet, 390. Eeginald of 
Salisbury was an especial object of Becket's 
bate. He calls Mm one born in fornication 
(" fornicarium "), son of a priest. Eeginald 
bated Becket witb equal cordiality. Becket 
bad betrayed bim by a false promise of not in- 
juring bis fatber. " Quod utique ipsi non plus 
quam cant faceremus." — Tbis letter contains 
Reginald's speecb about Henry baving tbe Col- 
lege of Cardinals in bis pay. — Giles, iii. 225; 

Bouquet, 391. 


186 Thomas d Becltet 

legatine powers — William, not only 
Becket's friend, but the head of the 
French hierarchy. If the Interdict 
should be extended to his French domin- 
ions, and the Excommnnication launch- 
ed against his person, could he depend 
on the precarious fidelity of the l^orman 
prelates ? Differences had again arisen 
with the King of France.^^ Henry was 
Uehry at ^eizcd witli an access of devotion. 
'^™- He asked permission to offer his 
prayers at the shrines and at the Mar- 
tyrs' Mount (Montmartre) at Paris. 
The pilgrimage would lead to an inter- 
view with the lung of France, and offer 
an occasion of renewing the negotia- 
tions with Becket. Yivan was hastily 
summoned to turn back. His vanity 

'^5 Becket writes to the Pope, January 1170. 
" Nee vos oportet de caetero vereri, ne transeat 
ad scliismaticos, quod sic eum Christus in manu 
famuli sui, regis Francorum subegit, ut ab obse- 
quio ejus non possit amplius separari." — ^p. 48, 

Thomas a Bechet. 187 

was flattered by the hope of noy. ii69. 
acliieying that reconciliation which had 
failed with Gratian. He wrote to 
Becket requesting his presence. Becket, 
thongh he snspected Yivian, yet out of 
respect to the King of France, consent- 
ed to approach as near as Chateau Cor- 
beil. After the conference with the 
King of France, two petitions from 
Becket, in his usual tone of imperious 
humility, were presented to the King of 
England. The Primate condescended 
to entreat the favor of Henry, and the 
restoration of the Church of Canterbury, 
in as ample a form as it was held before 
his exile. The second was more brief, 
but raised a new question of compensa- 
tion for loss and damage during the 
archbishop's absence from his ^^ otiations 
see.''^^ Both parties mistrusted ^'^i^ewed. 

'^6 Many diflBcult points arose. Did Becket 
demand not merely the actual possessions of the 

There were 

188 Thomas a Beclcet. 

each other ; each watched the other's 
words with captious jealousy. Yivian, 
weary of those verbal chicaneries of 
the King, declared that he had never 
met with so mendacious a man in his 
life.'^'^ Yivian might have remembered 
his own retractations, still more those of 
Becket on former occasions. He with- 
drew from the negotiation; and this 
conduct, with the refusal of a gift from 
Henry (a rare act of virtue), won him 
the approbation of Becket. But Becket 
himself was not yet without mistrust ; 
he had doubts whether Yivian's report 
to the Pope would be in the same spirit. 
" If it be not, he deserves the doom of 
the traitor Judas." 

three estates held by "William de Eos, Henry of 
Essex, and John the Marshall (the original ob- 
ject of dispute at Northampton ?), which Becket 
specifically required and declared that he would 
not give up if exiled for ever. — ^Epist. Giles, iii. 
220 ; Bouquet, 400. 

'^^ Epist. Giles, iii. 262 ; Bouquet, 199. 

Thomas a Bechet. 189 

Henry at length agreed that on the 
question of compensation he would 
abide by the sentence of the court of 
the French King, the judgment of the 
Galilean Church, and of the University 
of Paris.'^^ This made so favorable an 
impression that Becket could only 
evade it by declaring that he had rather 
come to an amicable agreement with 
the King than involve the aifair in 

At length all difficulties seemed yield- 
ing away, when Becket demanded ^..^g ^^ 
the customary kiss of peace, as the p^^^®- 
pledge of reconciliation. Henry per- 
emptorily refused ; he had sworn in his 
wrath never to grant this favor to 
Becket. He was inexorable ; and with- 
out this guarantee Becket would not 
trust the faith of the King. He was 
reminded, he said, by the case of the 
Count of Flanders, that even the kiss of 

'^8 Epist. ibid. ; Eadulph de Diceto. 

190 Thomas a Bechet, 

peace did not secure a revolted subject, 
Robert de Silian, wbo, even after this 
sign of amity, had been seized and cast 
into a dungeon. Henry's conduct, if 
not the effect of sudden passion or un- 
governable aversion, is inexplicable. 
Why did he seek this interview, which, 
if he was insincere in his desire for re- 
conciliation, conld afford but short 
delay % and from such oaths he would 
hardly have refused, for any great pur- 
pose of his own, to receive absolution.'^^ 
On the other hand, it is quite clear that 
Becket reckoned on the legatine power 
of William of Sens and the terror of the 
English prelates, who had refused to 
attend a council in London to reject 
the Interdict. He had now full con- 
fidence that he could exact his own 

■^9 According to Pope Alexander, Henry offer- 
ed that liis son should give the kiss of peace in 
his stead. — Giles, iv. 55. 

Thomas a Bechet. 191 

terms and humble the King under his 

But the King was resolved to wage 
war to the utmost. Geoffry Eidel, 
Archdeacon of Canterbury, was King's pro- 
sent to England with a royal ciamatioQ. 
proclamation containing the following 
articles : — I. Whosoever shall bring 
into the realm any letter from the Pope 
or the Archbishop of Canterbury is 
guilty of high treason. II. Whosoever, 
whether bishop, clerk, or layman, shall 
observe the Interdict, shall be ejected 
from all his chattels, which are confis- 
cate to the Crown. III. All clerks 
absent from England shall return be- 
fore the feast of St. Hilary, on pain of 
forfeiture of all their revenues. lY. 
E'o appeal is to be made to the Pope or 
Archbishop of Canterbury under pain 
of imprisonment and forfeiture of aU 

80 See his letter to Ms emissaries at Eome. — 
Giles, iii. 219; Bouquet, 401. 

19^ Thomas d BecJcet. 

cliattels. Y. All laymen from beyond 
seas are to be searched, and if anything 
be found upon them contrary to the 
King's honor, they are to be imprison- 
ed ; the same with those who cross to 
the Continent. YI. If any clerk or 
monk shall land in England without 
passport from the King, or with any- 
thing contrary to his honor, he shall be 
thrown into prison. YII. 'No clerk or 
monk may cross the seas without the 
King's passport. The same rule applied 
to the clergy of Wales, who were to be 
expelled from all schools in England. 
Lastly, Yin. The sheriffs were to ad- 
minister an oath to all freemen through- 
out England, in open court, that they 
would obey these royal mandates, thus 
abjuring, it is said, all obedience to 
Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury.^^ 

81 Ricardus Dorubernensis apud Twysden. 
Lord Lyttelton lias another copy, in Ms appen- 
dix ; in that a nintli article forbade the payment 

ThoQTias a Bechet. 193 

Tlie bishops, however, declined the 
oath ; some concealed themselves in 
their dioceses. Becket addressed a tri- 
umphant or gratulatory letter to his 
suffragans on their firmness. "We are 
now one, except that most hapless 
Judas, that rotten limb (Foliot of Lon- 
don), which is severed from us."^^ Ano- 
ther letter is addressed to the people of 
England, remonstrating on their impious 
abjuration of their pastor, and offering 
absolution to all who had sworn through 
compulsion and repented of their oath. §3 
The King and the Primate thus con- 
tested the realm of England. 

But the Pope was not yet to be in- 
flamed by Becket's passions, ^j^^ p^p^ 
nor quite disposed to depart ^^'" dubious. 
from his temporizing policy. John of 

of Peter's Pence to Eome ; it was to be collect- 
ed and broiigM into the exchequer, 

82Epist. Giles, iii. 195 ; Bouquet, 404. 

83 Giles, iii. 192 ; Bouquet, 405. 

194 Thomas a BecTcet. 

Oxford was at the court in Benevento 
with the Archdeacons of Eoiien and 
Seez. From that court returned the 
Archdeacon of Llandaff and Eobert de 
Barre with a commission to the Arch- 
bishop of Rouen and the Bishop of 
Il^evers to make one more effort for the 
termination of the difficulties. On the 
one hand they were armed with powers, 
if the King did not accede to his own 
terms within forty days after his citation 
(he had offered a thousand marks as 
compensation for all losses), to pro- 
nounce an interdict against his conti- 
nental dominions ; on the other, Becket 
was exhorted to humble himself before 
the King ; if Henry was inflexible and 
declined the Pope's offered absolution 
from his oath, to accept the kiss of 
peace from the King's son. The Eang 
was urged to abolish in due time the 
impious and obnoxious Customs. And 
to these prelates was likewise intrusted 

Thomas d BecJcet. 195 

authority to absolve the refractory 
Bishops of London and Salisbury.^ 
Tliis, however, was not the only object 
of Henry's new embassy to the Pope. 
He had long determined on the corona- 
tion of his eldest son ; it had been 
delayed for varions reasons. He seized 
this opportunity of reviving a design 
which would be as well humiliating to 
Becket as also of great moment in case 
the person of the King should be struck 
by the thunder of excommunication. 
The coronation of the King of England 
was the undoubted prerogative of the 
Archbishops of Canterbury, which had 
never been invaded without sufficient 
cause, and Becket was the last man 
tamely to surrender so important a right 
of his see. John of Oxford was to 
exert every means (what those means 
were may be conjectured rather than 
proved) to obtain the papal permission 
84 Dated February 12, 1170. 

196 Thomas a Beclcet. 

for tlie Arclibisliop of York to officiate 
at tliat august ceremony. 

The absolution of the Bishops of Lon- 
don and Salisbury was an astounding 
blow to Becket. He tried to impede it 
by calling in question the power of the 
archbishop to pronounce it without the 
presence of his colleague. The arch- 
bishop disregarded his remonstrance, 
and Becket's sentence was thus anuUed 
by the authority of the Pope. Kumors 
at the same time began to spread that 
the Pope had granted to the Arch- 
bishop of York power to proceed to the 
coronation. Becket's fury burst all 
bounds. He wrote to the Cardinal 
Albert and to Gratian: " In the court 
of Rome, now as ever, Christ is crucifi- 
ed and Barabbas released. The miser- 
able and blameless exiles are condemn- 
ed, the sacrilegious, the homicides, the 
impenitent thieves are absolved, those 
whom Peter himself declares that in his 

Thomas a Bechet. 197 

own cliair (tlie world protesting against 
it) lie wonld have no power to absolve.^^ 
Henceforth I commit my canse to God 
— God alone can find a remedy. Let 
those appeal to Eome who triumph 
over the innocent and the godly, and 
retnrn glorying in the ruin of the 
Church. For me I am ready to die." 
Becket's fellow exiles addressed the 
Cardinal Albert, denouncing in vehe- 
ment language the avarice of the cou.rt 
of Kome, by which they were brought 
to support the robbers of the Church. 
It is no longer King Henry alone who 

85 Epist. Giles, iii. 96 ; Bouquet, 416 ; Giles, 

iii. 108 ; Bouquet, 419. " Sed pro ea mori 

parati sumus." He adds; " Insurgant qui 

voluerint cardinales, arment non modo regem 

Anglic, sed totum, si possent orbem in perni- 

ciem nostram . . . Utinam via Romana non 

gratis peremisset tot miseros innocentes. Quis 

de cetero audeb^t illi regi registere quern ecclesia 

Eomana tot triumphis animavit, et armavit 

exemplo pernitioso manante ad posteros." 

198 Thomas a Bechet. 

is guilty of this six years' persecution, 
but the Church of Rome.^^ 

The coronation of the Prince by the 
Archbishop of York took place in the 
Abbey of Westminster on the 15th 
of June.^'^ The assent of the clergy was 
given with that of the laity. The Arch- 
bishop of York produced a papal brief, 
authorising him to perform the cere- 
mony.^^ An inhibitory letter, if it 

86 "IsTec persuadebitur mundo, quod snasores 
isti Deum saperent ; sed potius pecuniam, quam 
immoderato avaritise ardore sitiunt, olfecerunt." 
— Giles, iv. 291 ; Bouquet, 417. 

87 Becket's depression at this event is dwelt 
upon in a letter of Peter of Blois to John of 
Salisbury. Peter traveled from Eome to Bo- 
logna with the Papal legates. From them he 
gathered that either Becket would soon be re- 
conciled to the King or be removed to another 
patriarchate. — Epist. xxii. apud Giles, i. p. 84. 

88 Dr. Lingard holds this letter, printed by 
Lord Lyttelton, and which he admits was pro- 
duced, to have been a forgery. If it was, it 
was a most audacious one ; and a most flagrant 

Thomas a Beohet. 199 

readied England, onlj came into the 
King's hand, and was suppressed ; no 
one, in fact (as the production of such 
papal letter, as well as Becket's protest 
to the archbishop and to the bishops 

insult to the Pope, whom Henrj was even now 
endeavoring to propitiate through the Lombard 
Kepublics and the Emperor of the East (see 
Giles, iv. 10). It is remarkable, too, that 
though the Pope declares that this coronation, 
contrary to his prohibition (Giles, iv. 30), is not 
to be taken as a precedent, he has no word of 
the forgery. ISTor do I find any contemporary 
assertion of its spuriousness. Becket, indeed, 
in his account of the last interview with the 
King, only mentions the general permission 
granted by the Pope at an early period of the 
reign ; and argues as if this were the only per- 
mission. Is it possible that a special permis- 
sion to York to act was craftily interpolated 
into the general permission ? But the trick may 
have been on the side of the Pope, now grant- 
ing, now nullifying his own grants by inhibition. 
Bouquet is strong against Baronius (as on other 
points) upon Alexander's duplicity. — p. 434. 

200 Thomas a Bechet. 

collectively and severally, was by tlie 
royal proclamation higli treason or at 
least a misdemeanor) would dare to 
produce them. 

The estrangement seemed now com- 
plete, the reconciliation more remote 
than ever. The Archbishop of Kouen 
and the Bishop of E"evers, though urged 
to immediate action by Becket and even 
by the Pope, admitted delay after delay, 
first for the voyage of the King to Eng- 
land, and secondly for his return to 
IS^ormandy. Becket seemed more and 
more desperate, the King more and more 
resolute. Even after the coronation, it 
should seem, Becket wrote to Eoger of 
York,^^ to Henry of Worcester, and 
even to Foliot of London, to publish 
the Interdict in their dioceses. The 
latter was a virtual acknowledgment of 
the legality of his absolution, which in 
a long letter to the Bishop of iNevers 

89 Giles, iii. 229. 

Thomas a Bechet. 201 

lie had contested i^'^ but the Interdict 
still hung over the King and the realm ; 
the fidelity of the clergy was precarious. 
Tlie reconciliation at last was so sud- 
den as to take the world by surprise. 
The clue to this is found in Fitz-Stej^hen. 
Some one had suggested by word or by 
writing to the E^ng that the Primate 
would be less dangerous within than 
without the realm.^^ The hint flashed 
conviction on the King's mind. The 
two Kings had appointed an interview 
at Fretteville, between Chartres and 
-Treaty of Tours. The Archbishop of Sens 
Fretteviue. prevailed on Becket to be, un- 
summoned, in the neighborhood. Some 
days after the King seemed persuaded 
by the Archbishops of Sens and Kouen 

90 Giles, iii. 302. 

91 "Dictum fuit aliquem dixisse vel scripsisse 
regi Anglorum de Archepiscopo ut quid tenetur 
exclusus ? melius tenebitur inclusus quam exclu- 
sus. Satisque dictum fuit intelligenti." — p. 2Y2. 

202 Thomas a Bechet. 

and the Bishop of ITevers to hold a con- 
ference with Becket.^^ As soon as they 
drew near the King rode np, nncovered 
his head, and saluted the Prelate with 
frank conrtesy, and after a short con- 
versation between the two and the 
Archbishop of Sens, the King withdrew 
apart with Becket. Their conference 
was so long as to try the patience of 
the spectators, so familiar that it might 
seem there had never been discord be- 
tween them. Becket took a moderate 
tone ; by his own account he laid the 
faults of the King entirely on his evil 
counselors. After a gentle admonition 
to the King on his sins, he urged him 
to make restitution to the see of Can- 
terbury. He dwelt strongly on the 
late usurpation on the rights of the pri- 
macy, on the coronation of the King's 
son. Henry alleged the state of the 
kingdom and the necessity of the meas- 
92 Giles, iv. 30 ; Bouquet, 436. 

Thomas d BecTcet. 203 

lire; lie promised that as his son's 
queen, the daughter of the King of 
France, was also to be crowned, that 
ceremony should be performed by 
Becket, and that his son should again 
receive his crown from the hands of the 

At the close of the interview Becket 
sprung from his horse and threw him- 
self at the Eang's feet. The King leap- 
ed down, and holding his stirrup com- 
pelled the Primate to mount his horse 
again. In the most friendly terms he 
expressed his full reconciliation not 
only to Becket himself, but to the 
wondering and delighted multitude. 
There seemed an understanding on both 
sides to suppress all points which might 
lead to disagreement. The King did 
not dare (so Becket writes triumphantly 
to the Pope) to mutter one word about 
the Customs.^^ Becket was equally 

93 "Xam cle consuetudinibus qnas tanta per- 

204 Thomas d Beclcet, 

prudent, thougli lie took care that Ms 
submission should be so vaguely word- 
ed as to be drawn into no dangerous 
concession on bis part. He abstained, 
too, from all other perilous topics ; he 
left undecided the amount of satisfac- 
tion to the church of Canterbury ; and 
July, on these general terms he and the 
partners of his exile were formally re- 
ceived into the King's grace. 

If the King was humiliated by this 
quiet and sudden reconcilement with 
the imperious prelate, to outward ap- 
pearance at least he concealed his humi- 
liation by his noble and kingly manner. 
If he submitted to the spiritual reproof 
of the prelate, he condescended to re- 

vicacid. vindicare consueverat nee mutire prse- 
sumpsit." Becket was as mute. The issue of 
the quarrel seems entirely changed. The Con- 
stitutions of Clarendon recede, the right of coro- 
nation occupies the chief place. — See the long 
letter, Giles, 65. 

Thomas d Bechet. 205 

ceiye into his favor liis refractory sub- 
ject. Eacli maintained prudent silence 
on all points in dispute. Hemy receiv- 
ed, but he also granted pardon. If his 
concession was really extorted by fear, 
not from policy, compassion for Becket's 
six years' exile might seem not without 
influence. If Henry did not allude to 
the Customs, he did not annul them ; 
they were still the law of the land. The 
kiss of peace was eluded by a vague 
promise. Becket made a merit of not 
driving the King to perjury, but he 
skillfully avoided this trying test of the 
King's sincerity. 

But Becket's revenge must be satisfi- 
ed with other victims. If the Becket's 
worldly King could forget the vengeance. 
rancor of this long animosity, it was 
not so easily appeased in the breast of 
the Christian Prelate. E"o doubt ven- 
geance disguised itself to Becket's mind 
as the lofty and rightful assertion of 


206 Thomas a B eohet . 

spiritual autliority. The opposing pre- 
lates must be at his feet, even under his 
feet. The first thought of his partisans 
was not his return to England with a gen- 
erous amnesty of all wrongs, or a gentle 
reconciliation of the whole clergy, but 
the condign punishment of those who 
had so long been the counselors of the 
King, and had so recently ofiiciated in 
the coronation of his son. 

The court of Eome did not refuse to 
enter into these views, to visit the 
offence of those disloyal bishops who 
had betrayed the interests and com- 
promised the high principles of church- 
men.^* It was presumed that the King 
would not risk a peace so hardly gained 
for his obsequious prelates. The lay 
adherents of the King, even the plun- 

94Humbold Bishop of Ostia advised the con- 
fining the triumph to the depression of the Arch- 
bishop of York and the excommunication of 
the Bishops. — Giles, vi. 129 ; Bouquet, 448. 

Thomas a Bechet. 207 

derers of Churcli property were spared, 
some ecclesiastics about his person, 
John of Oxford himself es- Bated sept. lo. 
caped censure: but Pope Alexander 
sent the decree of suspension against 
the Archbishop of York, and renewed 
the excommunication of London and 
Salisbury, with whom w^ere joined the 
Archdeacon of Canterbury and the 
Bishop of Eochester, as guilty of special 
violation of their allegiance to the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of St. 
Asaph, and some others. Becket him- 
self saw the policy of altogether separ- 
ating the cause of the bishops from that 
of the King. He requested that some 
expressions relating to the King's ex- 
cesses, and condemnatory of the bishops 
for swearing to the Customs, should be 
suppressed ; and the excommunication 
grounded entirely on their usurpation 
of the right of crowning the King.^^ 
95 " Licet ei (regi sc.) peperceritis, dissinm- 

208 Thomas a BeeTcet. 

About fonr months elapsed between 
tlie treaty of Fretteville and the return 
of Becket to England. They were oc- 
cupied by these negotiations at Rome, 
Yeroli, and Ferentino; by discussions 
with the King, who was attacked during 
this period with a dangerous illness; 
and by the mission of some of Becket's 
officers to resume the estates of the see. 
Interview becket had two personal inter- 

at Tours, ^-^^g ^-^J^ ^^l^ J^^^^g . ^^^ ^^.g^. 

was at Tours, where, as he was now in 
the King's dominions, he endeavored 
to obtain the kiss of peace. The Arch- 
bishop hoped to betray Henry into this 
favor during the celebration of the mass, 
in which it might seem only a part of 
the service.^^ Henry was on his guard, 
and ordered the mass for the dead, in 

lare non audetis excessus et crimina sacerdo- 
tnm." This letter is a curious revelation of the 
arrogance and subtlety of Becket. — Giles, iii. 77. 
96 It is called the Pax. 

Thomas a Beolcet. 209 

wMcli the benediction is not pronounced. 
The Iling had received Becket fairly ; 
they parted not without ill-concealed 
estrangement. At the second meeting 
the King seemed more friendly ; he went 
so far as to say, " Why resist my wishes ? 
I would place everything in yonr hands." 
Becket, in his own words, bethought 
him of the tempter, '' All these things 
will I give unto thee, if thou wilt fall 
down and worship me." 

The King had written to his son in 
England that the see of Canterbury 
should be restored to Becket, as it was 
three months before his exile. But 
there were two strong parties hostile to 
Becket : the King's officers who held in 
sequestration the estates of the see, and 
seem to have esjDccially coveted the re- 
ceipt of the Michaelmas rents ; and with 
these some of the fierce warrior nobles, 
who held lands or castles which were 
claimed as possessions of the Church 


210 Thomas d Beclcet. 

of Canterbury. Raiidulph De Broc, 
his old inveterate enemy, was deter- 
mined not to surrender his castle of 
Saltwood. It was reported to Becket, 
by Becket represented to the King, that 
De Broc had sworn that he would have 
Becket's life before he had eaten a loaf 
of bread in England. The castle of Ro- 
chester was held on the same doubtful 
title by one of his 6nemies. The second 
party was that of the bishops, which 
was powerful, with a considerable body 
of the clergy and laity. They had suffi- 
cient influence to urge the King's offi- 
cers to take the strongest measures, lest 
the Papal letters of excommunication 
should be introduced into the kingdom. 
It is perhaps vain to conjecture, how 
far, if Becket had returned to England 
in the spirit of meekness, forgiveness, 
and forbearance, not wielding the thun- 
ders of excommunication, nor determin- 
ed to trample on his adversaries, and to 

Thomas a Bechet. 211 

exact the utmost even of his doubtful 
rights, he might have resumed his see, 
and gradually won back the favor of 
the King, the respect and love of the 
whole hierarchy, and all the legitimate 
possessions of his church. But he came 
not in peace, nor was. he received in 
peace.^"^ It was not the Arch- Becket pre- 

-■- 111 pares for his 

bishop of Rouen, as he had return, 
hoped, but his old enemy John of Ox- 
ford, who was commanded by the King 
to accompany him, and reinstate him 
in his see. Tlie King might allege that 
one so much in the royal confidence 
was the best protector of the Arch- 
bishop. The money which had been 
promised for his voyage was not paid ; 

9"^ Becket disclaims vengeance: "ITeque hoc 
dicimus, Deo teste, vindictam expetentes, quum 
scriptum esse noverimus, non quseres ultionem 
.... sed nt ecclesia correctionis exemplo possit 
per Dei gratiam in posterum roborare, et poena 
paucoriim mnltos sedificare." — Giles, iii. 76. 

212 Thomas a Becltet. 

lie was forced to borrow £300 of the 
Archbishop of Roiien. He went, as he 
felt, or affected to feel, with death be- 
fore his eyes, yet nothing should now 
separate him from his long-divided flock. 
Before his embarkation at Whitsand 
in Flanders, he received intelligence 
that the shores were watched by his 
enemies, it was said with designs on his 
life,^s but assuredly with the determi- 
nation of making a rigid search for the 
letters of excommunication.^^ To secure 
Letters of "^^ safc Carriage of one of these 
catTonTenT pGrilous documcuts, the suspen- 
before him. g- ^^ ^^ ^^ Archbishop of York, 

it was intrusted to a nun named Idonea, 
whom he exhorts, like another Judith, 

98 See Becket's account. — Giles, ill. p. 81. 

99 Lambeth says : " Yisum est autem nonnul- 
lis, quod incircumspecte literarum vindicta post 
pacem usus est, que tantum pacis desperatione 
fuerint datce^ — p. 116. Compare pp. 119 

and 152. 

Thomas a Bechet. 213 

to this lioly act, and promises her as 
her reward the remission of her sins.^^*^ 
Other contraband letters were conveyed 
across the Channel by unknown hands, 
and were delivered to the bishops before 
Becket's landing. 

'The prelates of York and London 
were at Canterbury when they received 
these Papal letters. When the fulmi- 
nating instruments were read before 
them, in which was this passage, " we 
will fill your faces with ignominy," 
their countenances fell. They sent mes- 
sengers to complain to Becket, that he 
came not in peace, but in fire and flame, 
trampling his brother bishops under his 
feet, and making their necks his foot- 
stool ; that he had condemned them un- 

10^ Lord Ly ttelton lias drawn an inference from 
these words unfavorable to the purity of Ido- 
nea's former life ; and certainly the examples of 
the Magdalene and the woman of Egypt, if this 
be not the case, were unhappily chosen. 

214 Thomas a Bechet. 

cited, unlieard, nnjudged. "There is 
no peace," Becket sternly replied, " but 
to men of good will." ^ It was said that 
London was disposed to humble himself 
before Becket ; but York,^ trusting in 
his wealth, boasted that he had in his 
power the Pope, the King, and all their 

Instead of the port of Dover, where 
he was expected, Becket's vessel, with 
Lands at tlic archicpiscopal banner dis- 

Sandwich. ^ ca -\ 

Dec. 1. played, cast anchor at Sand- 
wich. Soon after his landing, appeared 
in arms the Sheriff of Kent, Handulph 
de Broc, and others of his enemies. 
They searched his baggage, fiercely de- 
manded that he should absolve the 
bishops, and endeavored to force the 
Archdeacon of Sens, a foreign ecclesias- 
tic, to take an oath to keep the peace 

1 Fitz-Stephen, pp. 281, 284. 

2 Becket calls York his ancient enemy : " Lu- 
cifer ponens sedem suiim in aquilone." 

Thomas a Beelcet. 215 

of the realm. John of Oxford was I 
shocked, and repressed their violence. 
On his way to Canterbury the country 
clergy came forth with their flocks to 
meet him ; they strewed their garments 
in his way, chanting, " Blessed is he 
that Cometh in the name of the Lord." 
Arrived at Canterbury, he rode At can- ^. 
at once to the church with a vast ^^''^^^y- 
procession of clergy, amid the ringing 
of the bells, and the chanting of music. 
He took his archiepiscopal throne, and 
afterwards preached on the text, " Here 
we have no abiding city." The next 
morning came again the Sheriff of Kent, 
with Randulph de Broc, and the mes- 
sengers of the bishops, demanding their 
absolution.^ Becket evaded the ques- 
tion by asserting that the Excommuni- 

3 Becket accuses the bishops of thirstmg for 
his blood ! " Let them drink it." But this was 
a phrase which he uses on all occasions, even 
to "William of Pavia. 

216 Thomas d Beolcet. 

cation was not pronounced by Mm, but 
by his superior the Pope ; that he had 
no power to abrogate the sentence. 
This declaration was directly at issue 
with the bull of excommunication: if 
the bishops gave satisfaction to the 
Archbishop, he had power to act on 
behalf of the Pope.^ But to the satis- 
faction which, according to one account, 
he did demand, that they should stand 
a public trial, in other words place 
themselves at his mercy, they would 
not, and hardly could submit. They 
set out immediately to the King in 

The restless Primate was determined 
to keep alive the popular fervor, enthu- 
siastically, almost fanatically, on his 

* " Si vero ita eidem Archiepiseopo et Oan- 
tuarensi EcclesisQ satisfacere inveniretis, ut poe- 
nam istam ipse videat relaxandam, vice nostra 
per ilium volumus adimpleri." — Apud Bouquet, 
p. 461. 

Thomas a Bechet. 217 

side. On a pretext of a visit to Goes to 
the young King at Woodstock, 
to oifer him the present of three beau- 
tiful horses, he set forth on a stately 
progress. Wherever he went he was 
received with acclamations and prayers 
for his blessings by the clergy and the 
people. In Rochester he was enter- 
tained by the Bishop with great cere- 
mony. In London there was the same 
excitement : he was received in the 
palace by the Bishop of Winchester in 
Southwark. Even there he scattered 
some excommunications.^ The Court 
took alarm, and sent orders to the pre- 
late to return to his diocese. Becket 
obeyed, but alleged as the cause of his 
obedience, not the royal command, but 
his own desire to celebrate the festival 
of Christmas in his metropolitan church. 

f> " Ipse tamen Londonias adiens, et ibi mis- 
sarum solenniis celebratis, quosdam excommu- 
nicavit." — Passio, iii. p. 154. 

218 Thomas a Bechet. 

The week passed in liolding sittings in 
his court, where he acted with his usual 
promptitude, vigor, and resolution 
against the intruders into livings, and 
upon the encroachments on his estates ; 
and in devotions most fervent, mortifi- 
cations most austere.^ 

His rude enemies committed in the 
mean time all kinds of petty annoy- 
ances, which he had not the loftiness 
to disdain. Randulph de Broc seized a 
vessel laden with rich wine for his use, 
and imprisoned the sailors in Pevensey 
Castle. An order from the court com- 
pelled him to release ship and crew. 

6 Since this passage was written an excellent 
and elaborate paper has appeared in the Quar- 
terly Review, full of local knowledge. I recog- 
nize the hand of a friend from whom great 
things may be expected. I find, I think, nothing 
in which we disagree, though that account, 
having more ample space, is more particular 
than mine. (Reprinted in Memorials of Canter- 
bury, by Rev. A. P. Stanley.) 

Thomas d BecJcet. 219 

They robbed the people wlio carried his 
provisions, broke into his park, hunted 
his deer, beat his retainers ; and, at the 
instigation of Eandulph's bi other, Ko- 
bert de Broc, a ruffian, a renegade monk, 
cut off the tail of one of his state horses. 
On Christmas day Becket preached 
on the appropriate text, " Peace on 
earth, good will towards men." The 
sermon agreed ill with the text. He 
spoke of one of his predecessors, St. Al- 
phege, who had suffered martyrdom. 
" There may soon be a second." He 
then burst out into a fierce, impetuous, 
terrible tone, arraigned the courtiers, 
and closed with a fulminating excom- 
munication against Nigel de Sackville, 
who had refused to give up a benefice 
into which, in Becket's judgment, he 
had intruded, and against Randulph 
and Eobert de Broc. The maimer 
horse was not forgotten. He renewed 
in the most vehement language the 

220 Thomas a B ecTcet. 

censure on the bishops, dashed the can- 
dle on the pavement in token of their 
utter extinction, and then proceeded to 
the mass at the altar."^ 

In the mean time the excommunicated 
The bishops prclatcs had sous:ht the Kins; 

with the 5 -, . , 1 1 1 P T. 

King. m the neighborhood oi Jiayeux ; 
they implored his protection for them- 
selves and the clergy of the realm. " If 
all are to be visited by spiritual cen- 
sures," said the King, " who officiated 
at the coronation of my son, by the eyes 
of God, I am equally guilty." The whole 
conduct of Becket since his return was 
detailed, and no doubt deeply darkened 
by the hostility of his adversaries. All 
had been done with an insolent and se- 
ditious design of alienating the affec- 
tions of the people from the King. 
Henry demanded counsel of the pre- 
lates ; they declared themselves unable 
to give it. But one incautiously said, 
7 Fitz-Stephen, De Bosham, Grim, in he. 

Thomas a Bechet. 221 

" So long as Thomas lives, you will 
never be at peace." The Eng broke 
out into one of his terrible constitutional 
fits of passion ; and at length let fall the 
fatal words, " Have I none of my thank- 
less and cowardly courtiers who will 
relieve me from the insults of one low- 
born and turbulent priest 'I " 

These words were not likely to fall 
unheard on the ears of fierce, ^he King's 
and warlike men, reckless of '"*"'^'^'^*''- 
bloodshed, possessed with a strong sense 
of their feudal allegiance, and eager to 
secure to themselves the reward of des- 
perate service. Four knights, chamber- 
lains of the King, Eeginald Fitz-Urse, 
"William de Tracy, Hugh de Moreville, 
and Eeginald Brito, disappeared from 
the court.^ On the morrow, when a 
grave council was held, some barons 

8 See, on the former history of these knights, 
Quarterly Review, vol. xciii. p. 355. The writer 
has industriously traced out all that can be 

222 Thomas a Bechet. 

are said, even there, to liave advised 
the death of Becket. Milder measures 
were adopted : the Earl of Mandeville 
was sent off wdth orders to arrest the 
Primate ; and as the disappearance of 
these four knights could not be unmark- 
ed, to stop them in the course of any 
unauthorized enterprise. 

But murder travels faster than justice 
or mercy. They were almost already 
on the shores of England. It is said 
that they met in Saltwood Castle. On 
the 28th of December, having, by the 
aid of Kandulph de Broc, collected 
some troops in the streets of Canter- 
bury, they took up their quarters with 
Clarembold, Abbot of St. Augustine's. 

The assassination of Becket has some- 
thing appalling, with all its terrible 
circumstances seen in the remote past. 
What was it in its own age ? The most 

known, much wMch was rumored about these 

Thomas a Bechet. 223 

distinguished cliurclimaii in Cliristen- 
dom, tlie champion of the great sacer- 
dotal order, ahnost in the hour of his 
triumph over the most powerful king 
in Europe ; a man, besides the awful 
sanctity inherent in the person of every 
ecclesiastic, of most saintly holiness; 
soon after the most solemn festival of 
the Church, in his ow^n cathedral, not 
only sacrilegiously, but cruelly mur- 
dered, with every mark of hatred and 
insult. Becket had all the dauntless- 
ness, none of the meekness of the 
martyr; but while his dauntlessness 
would command boundless admira- 
tion, few, if any, would seek the 
more genuine sign of Christian mar- 

The four knights do not seem to have 
deliberately determined on their The knights 
proceedings, or to have resolved, Becket. 
except in extremity, on the murder. Tliey 
entered, but unarmed, the outer cham- 

224: Thomnas a Bechet. 

ber.^ The Arclibishop had just dined, 
and withdrawn from the hall. They 
w^ere offered food, as was the usage; 
they declined, thirsting, says one of the 
biographers, for blood. The Archbishop 
obeyed the summons to hear a message 
from the King ; they were admitted to - 
his presence. As they entered, there 
was no salutation on either side, till the 
Primate having surveyed, perhaps re- 
cognized them, moved, to them with 
cold courtesy. Fitz-Urse was the spokes- 
man in the fierce altercation which en- 
sued. Becket replied wdth haughty 
firmness. Fitz-Urse began by reproach- 
ing him wdth his ingratitude and sedi- 
tious disloyalty in opposing the coro- 
nation of the King's son, and command- 
ed him, in instant obedience to the 
King, to absolve the prelates. Becket 
protested that so far from wishing to 

9 Tuesday, Dec. 29. See, on the fatality of 
Tuesday in Becket's life, Q. E. p. 357. 

Thomas a Bechet. 225 

diminisli the power of the Kmg's son, 
he would have given him three crowns 
and the most splendid realm. For the 
excommunicated bishops he persisted 
in his usual evasion that they had been 
suspended by the Pope, by the Pope 
alone could they be absolved ; nor had 
they yet offered proj^er satisfaction. 
" It is the King's command," spake 
Fitz-Urse, " that you and the rest of 
your disloyal followers leave the king- 
dom."^^ " It becomes not the King to 
utter such command: henceforth no 
power on earth shall separate me from 
my flock." " You have presumed to 
excommunicate, without consulting the 
King, the King's servant's and officers." 
" ]^or will I ever spare the man who 
violates the canons of Rome, or the 
rights of the Church." " From whom 
do you hold your archbishopric?" 
" My spirituals from God and the Pope, 
10 Grim, p. 71. Fitz-Stephen. 

226 Thomas a Bechet. 

my temporals from the King." " Do 
you not hold all from the King?" 
" Render unto Csesar the things that 
are Caesar's, and unto God the things 
that are God's." " You speak in peril 
of your life ! " " Come ye to murder 
me ? I defy you, and will meet you 
front to front in the battle of the Lord." 
He added, that some among them had 
sworn fealty to him. At this, it is said, 
they grew furious, and gnashed with 
their teeth. The prudent John of Salis- 
bury heard with regret this intemperate 
language : " Would it may end well ! " 
Fitz-Urse shouted aloud, " In the King's 
name I enjoin you all, clerks and monks, 
to arrest this man, till the King shall 
have done justice on his body." They 
rushed out, calling for their arms. 

His friends had more fear for Becket 
than Becket for himself. The gates 
were closed and barred, but presently 
sounds were heard of those without, 

Thomas a Bechet. 227 

striving to break in. The lawless Ran- 
dulpli cle Broc was liewing at tlie door 
with an axe. All around Becket was 
the confusion of terror: he only was 
calm. Again spoke John of Salisbury 
with his cold prudence — "Thou wilt 
never take counsel : they seek thy life." 
" I am prepared to die." " We who 
are sinners are not so weary of life." 
" God's will be done." Tlie sounds 
without grew wilder. All around him 
entreated Becket to seek sanctuary in 
the clnirch. He refused, whether from 
religious reluctance that the holy place 
should be stained with his blood, or 
from the nobler motive of sparing his 
assassins this deep aggravation of their 
crime. They urged that the bell was 
already tolling for vespers. He seemed 
to give a reluctant consent; but he 
would not move without the dignity of 
his crosier carried before him. Becket 
With gentle compulsion they half church. 

228 Thomas a Bechet. 

drew, half carried liim tlirongli a private 
chamber, they in all the hasty agony 
of terror, he striving to maintain his 
solemn state, into the church. The din 
of the armed men was ringing in the 
cloister. The affrighted monks hroke 
off the service ; some hastened to close 
the doors ; Becket commanded them to 
desist — " E'o one should be debarred 
from entering the house of God." John 
of Salisbury and the rest fled and hid 
themselves behind the altars and in 
other dark places. The Archbishop 
might have escaped into the dark and 
intricate crypt, or into a chapel in the 
roof. There remained only the Canon 
Robert (of Merton), Fitz-Stephen, and 
the faithful Edward Grim. Becket 
stood between the altar of St. Benedict 
and that of the Yirgin.^^ It was thought 
that Becket contemplated taking his 
11 Eor the accurate local description, see Quar- 
terly Review, p. 367. 

Thomas a Bechet. 229 

seat on liis archiepiscopal throne near 
the high altar. 

Through the open door of the cloister 
came rushing in the four, fully The murder, 
armed, some with axes in their hands, 
with two or three w^ild followers, through 
the dim and bewildering twilight. The 
knights shouted aloud, " Where is the 
traitor?" — IS'o answer came back. — 
"Where is the Archbishop?" "Be- 
hold me, no traitor, but a priest of God ! " 
Another fierce and rapid altercation 
followed : they demanded the absolution 
of the bishops, his own surrender to 
the King's justice. Tliey strove to seize 
him and to drag him forth from ih^. 
church (even they had awe of the holy 
place), either to kill him without, or to 
carry him in bonds to the King. He 
clung to the pillar. In the struggle he 
grappled w4th De Tracy, and with des- 
perate strength dashed him on the pave- 
ment. His passion rose ; he called Fitz- 


230' Thomas a Bechet. 

Urse by a foul name, a pander. These 
were almost his last words (how unlike 
those of Stephen and the greater than 
Stephen !) He taunted Fitz-TJrse with 
his fealty sworn to himself. " I owe no 
fealty but to my King ! " returned the 
maddened soldier, and struck the first 
blow. Edward Grim interposed his 
arm, which was almost severed ofiF. 
The sword struck Becket, but slightly, 
on the head. Becket received it in an 
attitude of prayer — " Lord, receive my 
spirit," with an ejaculation to the Saints 
of the Church. Blow followed blow 
(Tracy seems to have dealt the first 
mortal wound), till all, unless perhaps 
De Moreville, had wreaked their ven- 
geance. The last, that of Richard de 
Brito, smote off a piece of his skull. 
Hugh of Horsea, their follower, a rene- 
gade priest surnamed Mauclerk, set his 
heel upon his neck, and crushed out 
the blood and brains. " Away ! " said 

Thomas d BeoJcet, 231 

the brutal ruffian, " it is time tliat we 
were gone." They rushed out to plun- 
der the archiepiscopal palace. 

The mangled body Avas left on the 
pavement ; and when his affrighted 
followers ventured to approach The Body. 
to perform their last offices, an incident 
occurred which, however incongruous, 
is too characteristic to be suppressed. 
Amid their adoring awe at his courage 
and constancy, their profound sorrow 
for his loss, they broke out into a rap- 
ture of wonder and delight on discover- 
ing not merely that his whole body was 
swathed in the coarsest sackcloth, but 
that his lower garments were swarming 
with vermin. From that moment mira- 
cles began. Even the populace had 
before been divided; voices had been 
heard among the crowd denying him to 
be a martyr ; he was but the victim of 
his own obstinacy. ^^ The Archbishop 
12 Grim, 70. 

232 Thomas a Bechet. 

of York even after this dared to preacli 
that it was a judgment of God against 
Becket — that "he perished, like Pha- 
raoh, in his pride."^^ But the torrent 
swept away at once all this resistance. 
The Government inhibited the miracles, 
but faith in miracles scorns obedience 
to human laws. The Passion of the 
Martyr Thomas was saddened and glori- 
fied every day with new incidents of 
its atrocity, of his holy firmness, of 
wonders wrought by his remains. 

The horror of Becket's murder ran 
throughout Christendom. At first, of 
course^ it was attributed to Henry's 
Effects of di^sct orders. Universal hatred 
the murder, "branded the King of England 
with a kind of outlawry,, a spontaneous 
excommunication. William of Sens, 
though the attached friend of Becket, 
probably does not exaggerate the pub- 
lic sentiment when he describes this 

13 Jolm of Salisbury. Bouquet, 619, 620. 

Thomas d Beclcet. 233 

deed as surpassing tlie cruelty of Herod, 
the perfidy of Julian, the sacrilege of 
the traitor Judas.^* 

It were injustice to King Henry not 
to suppose that with the dread as to 
the consequences of this act must have 
mingled some reminiscences of the gal- 
lant friend and companion of his youth 
and of the faithful minister, as well as 
religious horror at a cruel murder, so 
savagely and impiously executed. ^^ He 
shut himself for three days in his cham- 
ber, obstinately refused all food and 
comfort, till his attendants began to fear 
for his life. He issued orders for the 
apprehension of the murderers,^^ and 

14 Giles, iv. 162; Bouquet, 467. It was fit- 
ting that the day after that of the Holy Inno- 
cents should be that on which should rise up 
this new Herod. 

15 See the letter of Arnulf of Lisieux. — Bou- 
quet, 469. 

16 The Quarterly reviewer has the merit of 

tracing out the extraordinary fate of the mur- 

234 Thomas a Becltet. 

dispatched envoys to the Pope to ex- 
culpate himself from all participation 
or cognizance of the crime. His ambas- 
sadors found the Pope at Tuscnlum : 
they were at first sternly refused an 
audience. The afflicted and indignant 
Pope was hardly prevailed on to permit 
the execrated name of the King of Eng- 
land to be uttered before him. The 
cardinals still friendly to the King with 
difficulty obtained knowledge of Alex- 
ander's determination. It was, on a 
fixed day, to pronounce with the utmost 

derers. " Bj a singular reciprocity, the princi- 
ple for which Becket had contended, that priests 
should not be subjected to the secular courts, 
prevented the trial of a layman for the murder 
of a priest by any other than a clerical tribunal." 
Legend imposes upon them dark and romantic 
acts of penance ; history finds them in high 
places of trust and honor. — pp. 377, et seqq. I 
may add that John of Oxford five years after 
was Bishop of Norwich. Eidel too became 
of Ely. 

Thomas a Bechet. 235 

solemnity, excommiiiiicatiorL against the 
King by name, and an interdict on all 
liis dominions, on the Continent as well 
as in England. The ambassadors hard- 
ly obtained the abandonment of this 
fearful purpose, by swearing that the 
King would submit in all things to the 
judgment of his Holiness. With diflS.- 
culty the terms of reconciliation were 

Li the Cathedral of Avranches in ISTor- 
mandy, in the presence of the Reconcii- 
Cardinals Theodin of Porto, and Avranches. 
Albert the Chancellor, Legates for that 
especial purpose, Henry swore on the 
Gospels that he had neither commanded 
nor desired the death of Becket ; that 
it had caused him sorrow, not joy ; he 
had not grieved so deeply for the death 
of his father or his motlier.^'^ He stipulat- 
ed— I. To maintain two hundred knights 
at his own cost in the Holy Land. H. 

17 Diceto, p. 557. 

236 Thomas a Beclcet. 

To abrogate the Statutes of Clarendon, 
and all bad cnstoms introduced during 
his reign. ^^ III. That he would rein- 
vest the Church of Canterbury in all its 
rights and possessions, and pardon and 
restore to their estates all who had in- 
curred his wrath in the cause of the 
Primate. lY. If the Pope should re- 
quire it, he would himself make a cru- 
Ascension sado agaiust the Saracens in 
May 22, 1172. Spain. lu the porch of the 
church he was reconciled, but with no 
ignominous ceremony. 

Throughout the later and the darker 
part of Henry's reign the clergy took 
care to inculcate, and the people were 
prone enough to believe, that all his 
disasters and calamities, the rebellion 
of his wife and of his sons, were judg- 
ments of God for the persecution if not 

18 This stipulation, in Henry's view, canceled 
hardly any ; as few, and these hut trifling cus- 
toms, had been admitted during his reign. 

Thomas a Becket. 237 

the murder of the Martyr Thomas. The 
strong mind of Henry himself, depress- 
ed by misfortune and by the estrange- 
ment of his children, acknowledged 
with superstitious awe the justice of 
their conclusions. Heaven, the Martyr 
in Heaven, must be appeased by a pub- 
lic humiliating penance. The deeper 
the degradation the more valuable the 
atonement. In less than three years 
after his death the King visited the 
tomb of Becket, by this time a canon- 
ized saint, renowned not only through- 
out England for his wonder-working 
powers, but to the limits of Christen- 
dom. As soon as he came near enough 
to see the towers of Canterbury, Penance at 
the King dismounted from his rSda^y, ^'^' 
horse, and for three miles iit4. 
walked with bare and bleedino* feet 
along the flinty road. The tomb of the 
Saint was then in the crypt beneath 
the church. The King threw himself 

238 Thomas a Beclcet. 

prostrate before it. The Bisliop of Lon- 
don (Foliot) preached ; he declared to 
the wondering multitude that on his 
solemn oath the King was entirely guilt- 
less of the murder of the Saint : but as 
his hasty words had been the innocent 
cause of the crime, he submitted in 
lowly obedience to the penance of the 
Church. Tlie haughty monarch then 
prayed to be scourged by the willing 
monks. From the one end of the church 
to the other each ecclesiastic present 
gratified his pride, and thought that he 
performed his duty, by giving a few 
stripes.^^ The King passed calmly 
through this rude discipline, and then 
spent a night and a day in prayers and 
tears, imploring the intercession in 
Heaven of him whom, he thought not 
now on how just grounds, he had pur- 

19 The scene is related \>j all tlie monkisli 
chroniclers. — Gervaise, Diceto, Brompton, Ho- 

Thomas a Bechet. 239 

sued with, relentless animositj on 

Thus Becket obtained by his death 
that triumph for which he would per- 
haps have struggled in vain through a 
long life. He was now a Saint, and for 
some centuries the most popular Saint 
in England : among the people, from a 
generous indignation at his barbarous 
murder, from the fame of his austerities 
and his charities, no doubt from admi- 
ration of his bold resistance to the king- 
ly power; among the clergy as the 
champion, the martyr of their order. 
Even if the clergy had had no interest 
in the miracles at the tomb of Becket, 
the high-strung faith of the people 
would have wrought them almost with- 

20 Peter of Blois was assured bj the two car- 
dinal legates of Henry's innocence of Becket's 
death. See this letter, which contains a most 
high-flown eulogy on the transcendent virtues 
of Henry.— Epist. 66. 

240 Thomas a Bechet. 

out suggestion or assistance. Cures 
would have been made or imagined ; 
tlie latent powers of diseased or para- 
lyzed bodies would have been quicken- 
ed into action. Belief, and the fear of 
disbelieving, would have multiplied 
one extraordinary event into a hundred ; 
fraud would be outbid by zeal; the in- 
vention of the crafty, even if what may 
seem invention was not more often ig- 
norance and credulity, would be outrun 
by the demands of superstition. There 
is no calculating the extent and effects 
of these epidemic outbursts of passionate 

Becket was indeed the martyr of the 
Becket clergy, not of the Church ; of sa- 

martyr of „ ~.^ , , 

the clergy, ccrdotai powcr, not 01 Christi- 
anity; of a caste, not of mankind.^^ 

21 On the effect of the death, and the imme- 
diate concourse of the people to Canterbury, 
Lambeth, p. 133. 

22 Herbert de Bosham, writing fourteen years 

Thomas a Bechet. 241 

From beo^miino- to end it was a strife 
for the autliority, the immunities, the 
possessions of the clergy.^-^ The liberty 
of the Church was the exemption of the 
clergy from law; the vindication of 
their separate, exclusive, distinctive 
existence from the rest of mankind. It 
was a sacrifice to the deified self; not 
the individual self, but self as the centre 
and representative of a great corpora- 
tion. Here and there in the long full 
correspondence there is some slight allu- 

after Becket's death, declares him among the 
most undisputed martyrs. " Quod alicujus mar- 
tyrum causa justior fuit aut apertior ego nee 
audivi, nee legi." So completely were clerical 
immunities part and parcel of Christianity. 

23 The enemies of Becket assigned base rea- 
sons for his opposition to the King. " Ecclesi- 
asticam etiam libertatem, quam defensatis, non 
ad animarum lucrum sed ad augmentum pecu- 
niarum, episcopos vestros intorquere." See the 
charges urged by John of Oxford. — Giles, iv. 
p. 188. 


242 Thomas d BecJcet, 

sion to the miseries of the people in being 
deprived of the services of the exiled 
bishops and clergy i^* " there is no one 
to ordain clergy, to consecrate virgins :" 
the confiscated property is said to be a 
robbery of the poor: yet in general the 
sole object in dispute was the absolute 
immunity of the clergy from civil juris- 
diction,25 the right of appeal from the 

24 Especially in Epist. 19. "Interim." 

25 It is not just to judge the clergy by the 
crimes of individual men, but there is one case, 
mentioned by no less an authority than John 
of Salisbury, too flagrant to pass over : it was 
in Beoket's own cathedral city. Immediately 
after Becket's death the Bishops of Exeter and 
Worcester were commissioned by Pope Alex- 
ander to visit St. Augustine's, Canterbury. 
They report the total dilapidation of the build- 
ings and estates. The prior elect " Jugi, quod 
hereticus damnat, fluit libidine, et hinnit in 
foeminas, adeo impudens ut libidinem, nisi quam 
publicaverit, voluptuosam esse non reputat." 
He debauched mothers and daughters : " Forni- 
cationis abusum comparat necessitati." In one 

Thomas a Bechet. 243 

temporal sovereign to Eome, and tlie 
asserted superiority of the spiritual 
rulers in every resj^ect over the tempo- 
ral power. There might, indeed, be 
latent advantages to mankind, social, 
moral, and religious, in this secluded 
sanctity of one class of men ; it might 
be well that there should be a barrier 
against the fierce and ruffian violence 
of kings and barons ; that somewhere 
freedom should find a voice, and some 
protest be made against the despotism 
of arms, especially in a newly-conquered 
country like England, where the kingly 
and aristocratic power was still foreign : 
above all, that there should be a caste, 
not an hereditary one, into w^hich ability 
might force its way up, from the most 
low-born, even from the servile rank ; 
but the liberties of the Church, as they 
were called, were but the establishment 

village he had seventeen bastards. — Epist. 

244: Thomas a Bechet. 

of one tyranny — a milder, perhaps, bnt 
not less rapacious tyranny — instead of 
another; a tyranny which aspired to 
uncontrolled, irresponsible rule, nor 
was above the inevitable evil produced 
on rulers as well as. on subjects, from 
the consciousness of arbitrary and auto- 
cratic power. 

Reflective posterity may perhaps con- 
verdict of sider as not the least remarkable 
posterity, p^.^^ .^ ^|^.g 2ofty and tragic 

strife that it was but a strife for power. 
Henry II. was a sovereign who, with 
many noble and kingly qualities, lived, 
more than even most monarchs of his 
age, in direct violation of every Chris- 
tian precept of justice, humanity, con- 
jugal fidelity. He was lustful, cruel, 
treacherous, arbitrary. But throughout 
this contest there is no remonstrance 
whatever from Primate or Pope against 
his disobedience to the laws of God, 
only to those of the Church. Becket 

Thomas a Bechet. 245 

mighty indeed, if lie had retained his 
full and acknowledged religions power, 
have rebuked the vices, protected the 
subjects, interceded for the victims of 
the King's unbridled passions. It must 
be acknowledged by all that he did not 
take the wisest course to secure this 
which might have been beneficent influ- 
ence. But as to what appears, if the 
Ejng would have consented to allow 
the churchmen to despise all law — if 
he had not insisted on hanging priests 
guilty of homicide as freely as laymen 
— he might have gone on unreproved 
in his career of ambition ; he might un- 
rebuked have seduced or ravished the 
wives and daughters of his nobles ; ex- 
torted, without remonstrance of the 
Clergy any revenue from his subjects, 
if he had kept his hands from the 
treasures of the Church. Henry's real 
tyranny was not (would it in any case 
have been?) the object of the chi^rcii- 


246 T ho Tin as a BecTcet. 

man's censure, oppugnancj, or resist- 
ance. The cruel and ambitious and 
rapacious King would doubtless have 
lived unexcommunicated and died with 
plenary absolution.